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Museum blaze: Fire safety mechanism was ‘not functioning’, Javadekar says ‘mishap is unfortunate’

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The fire safety mechanism of the National Museum of Natural History in FICCI Building was “not functioning” which could have controlled the fire that broke out in the wee. It took fire services over four hours to douse the blaze with 35 fire engines pressed into service.

Fire safety mechanism-AV

“The fire safety systems were there but they were not functioning at the time when we tried to operate them. Had they been working, the fire would have been curtailed at the earliest time,” Deputy Fire Chief Rajesh Panwar said.

“Had the fire system been working it would be easier to control the fire at the earliest time because we had to depend on our resources only,” he said.

“My security personnel rang me up and informed me about the smoke. I instructed them to call fire. By then I reached the spot. I also informed all FICCI members who also arrived in some time,” Jagmohan Bhisht, the caretaker in charge of security at the FICCI premises said.

The flames have been completely doused and other buildings in FICCI auditorium are safe. Only the National Museum of Natural History building has been damaged, the official said.

The fire which broke out on the top floor of the museum at around 1.45 am, located in FICCI Building at Mandi House, where some repair work was underway and quickly spread to lower floors of the building, damaging the specimens kept there.

FICCI members denied that there was a lapse on their part. “All fire safety measures were in place. This building is approved and cleared by the Government of India. We host functions for the government and big dignitaries frequently in these premises. There are at least 15 security guards at the premises every night, and around 35 during the day. The guards noticed the fire and called in the authorities. In a fire this big, nothing would work anyway. This fire is a serious case of an accident,” said Rajiv Tyagi, Media Head (FICCI).

Minister of Environment Prakash Javadekar reached the spot at around 8:30 am and ordered an energy and fire audit of all the establishments under his ministry throughout the country.

“The museum was on the FICCI property, we will assess the damage as soon as we are handed it over and see how we can restore it,” Javadekar said.

He announced that a fire safety audit will be conducted for all 34 museums under the Ministry in the city. “We are assessing the loss. There were thousands of specimens which have been destroyed…This building was rented out to the Ministry by FICCI so we had limitations. We will try to recover what we can,” Javadekar said.

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