Fire accidents (accidental fires): India

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


The extent of the problem in…


Fire accidents, a timeline, 1995-2016; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, April 11, 2016

See graphic:

Fire accidents, a timeline, 1995-2016

2017: Every 5th fire death in world is in India

Malathy Iyer, Dec 22, 2019 Times of India

Fire deaths in India and China
From: Malathy Iyer, Dec 22, 2019 Times of India

MUMBAI: With 27,027 deaths, every fifth fire-related death in the world in 2017 took place in India. Around 9 million fire incidents and 1.2 lakh deaths were recorded across the globe that year.

Of these incidents, India recorded 1.6 million fires and 27,027 deaths, according to a 195-nation analysis by Global Diseases Burden published in The BMJ Injury Prevention journal recently. The Indian deaths were 2.5 times the figures in China, where 10,836 people died in fires in 2017. India, along with seven countries, including Pakistan, accounted for over half the deaths due to fires. The study said kids under five and adults above 60 are the biggest fire victims — a trend seen in urban India as well.

Inadequate healthcare facilities add to fire deaths

Earlier, women made up for 80% of the fire victims in Mumbai, but now we have started seeing more senior citizens and children in burn wards,” divulged Dr S Keswani of Airoli Burns Centre in Navi Mumbai. This “epidemiological shift” is mainly due to societal changes such as increased longevity and financial independence among women. “Women have jobs, meaning children are either taken care of by elderly at home or at a creche,” he said. The study identified gender violence as a cause for the high death rate in India; it also cited a study from Karnataka that showed synthetic saris worn by women was a cause.

Inadequate healthcare facilities in India add to deaths due to fires. “Burns management needs manpower.

Six people are needed each time a burns patient has his or her bandages changed. But our public hospitals, where most victims go for treatment, have poor doctor/nurse-patient ratio,’’ added Dr Keswani.

The private sector rarely offers burns treatment as it needs heavy investment but doesn’t earn enough. In Mumbai, only two private hospitals have burns wards, but every public hospital has to treat burns even though only a handful have adequate facilities. A public hospital doctor said, “An ICU stay in the private sector could cost Rs 25,000-50,000. Burns patients need to stay in hospital for a long time, but the bill could be well over Rs 18 lakh a month. How many Indians can really afford that?’’ However, deaths due to fire, heat and hot substances have registered a drop in most countries, added the study. In India, deaths decreased by around 30% between 1990 and 2017.

“Prevention should be the first priority in reducing intolerable number of injuries and deaths,” said Dr Spencer James, senior author of the study at Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at University of Washington School of Medicine. “Treatment for burns remains relatively expensive and requires robust healthcare services, not often available in low- and middle-income countries,” he added. The study, the largest effort to quantify health loss across places and over time, was conducted by IHME, an independent research organization at University of Washington, and was funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.



Jayashree Nandi, Nasa images show an India dotted with fires, April 30, 2018: The Times of India

Major fires in India, spotted between 21 and 28 April 2018
From: Jayashree Nandi, Nasa images show an India dotted with fires, April 30, 2018: The Times of India

Nasa images from the past ten days show large parts of India are dotted with fires stretching across Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and even some southern states. In a sweltering summer, these fires are augmenting the heat and causing pollution via release of black carbon, a component of soot with high global warming effect.

Some of these dots may be forest fires but Hiren Jethva, research scientist at Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center, says fires in central India may be mostly crop fires as forest fires are usually uncontrolled and, therefore, produce more smoke and haze.

Agricultural scientists are linking the massive rise in crop fires in recent years to the dependence of farmers on combine harvesters, which leave a short stubble behind. The practice of stubble burning is not limited to the northern states of Haryana and Punjab.

While burning of paddy stubble has been a common practice among farmers because it is unsuitable as fodder, increasing incidence of wheat stubble burning is a relatively new trend. States with crop fires seen in the Nasa maps have a dominant ricewheat cropping system. There are two choices of harvesting for farmers — manual or combine. But with acute shortage of labour, combines are turning out to be the quickest and cheapest mode of harvesting and preparing soil for paddy.

“I suspect that the use of combines is increasing across the country. I found that the single most important determinant of burning crop residue is the use of combines,” says Ridhima Gupta, an Indian School of Business researcher, who studied the economics of farm fires in Punjab. During her research, she found that using manual labour is twice as expensive as a harvester, and that crop stubble burning accounts for nearly 14% of the country’s black carbon emissions.

The highest number of fires is being seen in Madhya Pradesh. About 10 farmers have already been detained this year in Sehore for burning wheat stubble that spread fire to nearby farms.

Accidents, year-wise


Deaths in fire accidents in India, 2010-14; State-wise deaths in 2014; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Apr 11 2016

The Times of India, Apr 11 2016

Over 1.13 lakh people killed in fire accidents in 5 yrs, most in Maha  Most Incidents In Residential Buildings

The death of over 100 people in Kollam has retrained the focus on firerelated accidents that killed over 1.13 lakh people across the country in five years between 2010 and 2014. Though the number of deaths in such incidents has been decreasing in the past five years, the figure still remains uncomfortably high.

Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of the home ministry showed that 20,377 fire accidents were reported in the country in 2014, which caused 19,513 deaths and injuries to 1,889 people.

The report showed that the maximum deaths in fire accidents in 2014 were reported from Maharashta (3892) followed by Madhya Pradesh (2305), Gujarat (2011), Karnataka (1610), Tamil Nadu (1594), UP (1164), Chhattisgarh (1089) and Rajasthan (1034). Among Union Territories s), the maximum casual (UTs), the maximum casualties in 2014 were reported from Delhi (170) followed by the Andaman & Nicobar Islands (18), Daman & Diu (16), Chandigarh (14) and Puducherry (12). The cause-wise analysis of fire accidents showed that the maximum (18.3%) incidents were reported in residential buildings.

Other causes included fire in school buildings, mines, trains, private vehicles, government buildings and manufacturing units of combustible materials like crackers and match boxes.No separate data for fire in temples is maintained.

Kerala, incidentally , is among states where more than 50% of fire incidents in 2014 were reported in residential buildings. Other states in this category included Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

The number of casualties among women was higher than men in 2014. Out of 19,513 casualties in 2014, 12,446 were that of women. The report for 2015 is under preparation.The NCRB compiles such data after getting inputs from all states and UTs.


Fire-related deaths in 2015 and the state of preparedness for fire accidents, state-wise ; The Times of India, April 17, 2017

See graphic, Fire-related deaths in 2015 and the state of preparedness for fire accidents, state-wise

Damages, compensation

Factory owner to pay ₹25 lakh for 2018 blaze: HC

Dec 9, 2019 Times of India

In what may set a precedent, Delhi high court has asked the owner of a rubber factory that caught fire in Malviya Nagar last year to cough up Rs 25 lakh to bear the cost of dousing the blaze.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar has also warned the owner Sanjay Saini that if he fails to deposit the amount with court registry, he will have to appear before it on the next date for an explanation.

High court, in a recent order, gave the direction after it was informed that the entire operation to control the raging fire that lasted several hours in May last year cost over 30 lakh.

The Headquarters, Western Air Command told the court that the air force incurred an expenditure in facilitating the firefighting operations totalling Rs 21,54,750.

Similarly, Delhi Police and the fire department also incurred expenditure of Rs 1,44,210 and Rs 18,87,528, respectively, in dousing the fire on the premises in question.

The court also roped in the Union government as a party to the case where it has clubbed petitions that raise the common concern of lack of fire safety preparedness in the capital. While it had taken suo motu cognisance of the Malviya Nagar incident, high court is also hearing a PIL on illegal coaching centres operating from residential premises without due clearances. Filed by a local resident Kanchan Gupta through advocate Prashant Manchanda, the plea alleged connivance of civic agencies in allowing such coaching centres to mushroom.

The court had earlier appointed senior lawyer Kailash Vasdev as amicus to examine permissions given to hotels, hospitals, etc in the past four years to find out lapses in the wake of the blaze in Malviya Nagar.

Vasdev had cited the tragic death of 17 persons in a hotel in Karol Bagh while urging the court to scrutinise full records of licences and permissions given to properties in Walled City, Karol Bagh and Paharganj area between 2015 and 2018.

The amicus had asked how many licences or no objections were revoked for running guest houses, hotels, hospitals or nursing homes in the Walled City, Walled City Extension, Karol Bagh and Paharganj during the same time period.

The massive fire at Malviya Nagar was controlled after 20 hours when up to 90 fire tenders were pressed into action, along with a helicopter of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and 8,000 litres of water was used to douse it. Saini, owner of the godown, was arrested. It was found that he was storing inflammable materials without proper permission from the MCD and there were no fire safety measures in place at the godown, police had claimed.

The fire at Malviya Nagar was controlled after 20 hours with 90 fire tenders being pressed into service, along with an IAF helicopter, which used 8,000 litres of water to douse the blaze

Short circuit blazes


Short-circuit blazes i) Deaths in cities in 10 years due to fire from short-circuit, 2006-2015
ii)Fires caused by short circuits, state-wise, 2006-2015
From :Ahmed Ali, January 8, 2018: The Times of India

See graphic:

Short-circuit blazes i) Deaths in cities in 10 years due to fire from short-circuit, 2006-2015
ii)Fires caused by short circuits, state-wise, 2006-2015

Delhi, Mumbai record the most short-circuit-related fatalities

V Narayan & Nitasha Natu, City ranks 2nd in short-circuit fires with 418 deaths in 10 years: NCRB, January 8, 2018: The Times of India

The city ranked second in fires caused due to short-circuit, with 418 deaths over 10 years, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. Delhi recorded the most short-circuit-related fatalities (424), while Ahmedabad came third with 260 casualties in 2006-15. Short-circuit is a leading cause of fires. Maharashtra, with 1,406 deaths, came third after Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat in that period.

Fire experts said that there was an urgent need for a thorough electrical audit by acompetent engineer, checking the current capacity, insulation, etc.

“The number of casualties will not dip if superficial measures are taken. Changes have to be made in the law,” said former fire chief P D Kargupikar. He added that there was no proper scientific investigation conducted in the aftermath of a blaze. “Most evidence is destroyed while extinguishing the fire,” he said. “Spraying water further washes away the residue. In such circumstances, how does one prove if a short-circuit sparked the blaze? Samples are sent to the state forensic science lab but no positive results are obtained,” said Kargupikar.

Fire department officials said despite repeated warnings, individuals and establishments do not invest in good quality electrical equipment. “Lack of maintenance of equipment could lead to fire-related accidents. Overload of electricity is another cause. A key reason is littering of ducts and dumping scrap in buildings, which provides easy ignition to fire. Many buildings don’t even have a proper refuge area or an escape route,” said an official.

Kargupikar said many people get rid off earth-leakage circuit-breakers (ELCB) as they may cause tripping too often. An ELCB is a safety device used in electrical installations to prevent electric shocks. It detects the smallest of stray voltages on the metal enclosures of electrical equipment and interrupts the circuit if dangerous voltage is detected. “Electrical wires have to be selected as per load. It is necessary to ensure they are ISI-certified and not sub-standard. Similarly, with a circuit-breaker, cost should not be a factor during installation,” added Kargupikar.

Chief fire officer P S Rahangdale said most fires here were due to electrical reasons. “Poor maintenance of wiring makes it vulnerable. Wiring gets oxidised due to exposure to weather. Most fatalities are due to inhalation of gas or smoke emitted after burning of wires and due to fear,” he said.

See also

Crop stubble burning: India

Fire accidents (accidental fires): India

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