Residents of a plush skyscraper in Powai’s Hiranandani Gardens complex were sent into panic after an in-house garbage chute caught fire on Monday afternoon. Wh-ile no casualties were reported, the building was enveloped with smoke and residents had to be evacuated for a short period. Though the cause of the major fire is yet under investigation, fire officials raised concern over the chute which wa
s made of combustible PVC, as against the usual metal frame generally used.
The fire broke out on the ground floor chute of Avalon Heights (A wing) around 2.45 pm, and travelled up the enclosed chute to the 33rd floor. Panic-struck residents were alerted when the water sprinklers in the building started spraying water and thick smoke entered their homes. Incidentally, a flat under construction on the 25th floor of the same building had caught fire just two weeks ago.
“My wife and son were in the house. They didn’t try to run out as there was a lot of heat and smoke,” said Vikas Trivedi who stays on the 29th floor. Eight fire engines, three ambulances, and five water tankers were rushed to the spot and the fire was doused within 30 minutes.
“The fire was caused by some ignition, but we are investigating the cause,” said chief fire officer Kiran Kadam, adding that the PVC was combustible and had aided the fire to spread rapidly.
“It was a freak accident. Food is dumped into the chute and we suspect that the collected food must have let off some gas like methane that was fanned into a fire by the strong breeze,” said building secretary P Saha, adding that, “We conducted a fire drill on Sunday, so residents were conversant with the fire-fighting equipment.” The chute, he said, was no longer used by residents, as the garbage would leave a stench on the lower floors.
With the lifts temporarily stopped and the electricity cut, residents gathered in the sprawling compound, with concern writ across their faces. Someone offered tea and biscuits to the waiting families, mostly women and children, even as worried husbands left their workplaces and rushed home on hearing about the incident.
California couple Jack and Catherine Steinmetz returned from a Goa holiday only to be told that they couldn’t enter their house on the 33rd floor till the smoke abated.
Amidst the tension, the residents voiced one demand. “We have beautiful gardens, but aren’t assured any safety. We need a fire station in Powai. Be it this incident, or the fire in the nearby slums, in January, we had to wait for fire engines from Vikhroli, Marol and Mulund to get here,” said MMRDA-Powai citizen’s committee member Elsie Gabriel.