Fire engine fails to enter Todi Mill compound, thanks to BMC inaction
Hours after a fire broke out at an eatery’s staff quarters in Lower Parel’s Mathuradas Mill Compound, officials from the BMC have started clearing encroachments that made it difficult for a fire engine to enter the premises earlier.
The compound where the fire broke out is shared by Todi Mill, accessible via the Senapati Bapat Marg and Mathuradas Mill, which can be accessed from NM Joshi Marg. The entrance of one acts as the exit for the other.
Both defunct mills have been converted into commercial hubs over the last decade and house several offices and eateries, along with a handful residential units. At least two play schools are also located inside the premises.
Around 10:30 am today, a fire broke out in the staff quarters of Cafe Zoe restaurant due to a short circuit in the AC unit. Before the fire brigade arrived, the security guards of nearby offices tried to douse the blaze with fire extinguishers and sand buckets.
A quick response vehicle (QRV) reached a spot a few minutes later, followed by a fire tender. However, the fire tender could not enter the compound due to its narrow entrance, forcing officials to station it in the adjacent compound.
While the fire was doused shortly after, and without any casualties, the extent of damage increased multi-fold due to the compound’s inaccesibility.
BMC initiates action:
Around four hours after the incident, officials from BMC’s G-South Ward arrived at the spot with a truck to clear a low stone wall that had acted as a hindrance earlier.
The wall, incidentally, is located barely 10 metres away from the source of the blaze and acts as the boundary of a handful commercial units.
Although its removal will not make the entire compound accessible, its removal is pivotal as it is located close to the entrance of Todi Mill. Moreover, the demolition, while necessary, is coming a little too late according to some.
“BMC is demolishing the wall now when the damage is done. It has been there for ages. It is surprising that they didn’t notice it during all the inspections they carried out in the last few months,” said a security guard of a nearby restaurant.
The guard added that removing the wall alone will not solve the accessibility problem as the compound is extremely crowded throughout the day and people often park cars on its narrow roads, making it difficult for other vehicles to enter or exit.
Following the Kamala Mills blaze in December, the civic body initiated a city-wide demolition drive to penalise establishments with illegal encroachments and extensions.
During the drive, G-South Ward officials visited Mathuradas and Todi Mill compound several times, serving notices to dozens of eateries and demolishing encroachments outside eateries like Hoppipola, Zaffran among others.
An official present at the demolition spot today acknowledged that the demolition was done in the backdrop of the fire, without disclosing if any further action will be taken.
Despite the ongoing action, the compound is far from safe as both its access routes are blocked for most part. While tempos are parked on both sides of Todi Mill Compound, the entrance of Mathuradas Mill Compound is blocked by parked vehicles on one side.
Inside, the approach road leading towards the entrance of eateries like Toit, Hoppipola and Woodside Inn is partially blocked by parked vehicles. The same applies to the other side which leads to Todi Social.
“There is barely enough space for cars and bikes to enter the premises. But almost everyday, heavy vehicles delivering goods get stuck at one of the entrances, blocking the access for the rest of the vehicles,” said Vishal K, a Product Manager at one of the firms located inside the compound.
The narrow and blocked routes pose a serious threat during emergencies as it restricts the access to vehicles like fire tenders and ambulances in addition to making it difficult for people to exit the premises.
As a result, even if the establishments inside the compound are fire safety compliant, the risk of loss to human life and property exists until the compounds’ access is kept free from all encroachments.