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Home/ Disaster Management/ Vulnerabilities/ Hazards/ Fire

In Delhi there has been a substantial increase in population and industrialization, since Independence. Well over 1,50,000 small scale industrial units in identified industrial units in identified industrial pockets (in addition to industries running illegally), over 1200 J.J. Clusters providing shelter to nearly one third of the population and over 3.5 million automotive vehicles have choked infrastructural services. The fast increased has not been planned for.

Master Plan for Delhi, had been created as an instrument to control the use of land in urban area and protect the welfare of people. The concept of zoning has not yielded desirable results over and above allowing for mixed use and occupancy, authorized as well as unauthorized. Banquet halls in residential areas, cottage industries in congested areas, trade of hazardous chemicals from the highly congested residential/commercial areas, hazardous and non hazardous industries in close vicinity are few to menmtion which have further deteriorated environemental services. This has certainly added to the fire risk already inherited by a particular occupancy. As a result losses due to fire are increasing to both the life and property. This is developing a dangerous trend. Man-made disasters are likely in these areas.

Lal Kuan tragedy that claimed 58 lives has not fixed from our memories. Zoning and mixed use planning is a vital part of urban design. However, it can fail through abuse, misuse, and resistance to changes in urban pattern essential for the general welfare of the population. The price , which is being paid, is high. It needs to be understood, appreciated and accepted that the solution to complex problems is not always simple and widely acknowledged . Many a times they are complex, hard and unpopular in a democratic setup.

The recent fire incident data as provided in the table can provide a clear assessment of the fire incidents in Delhi and their increase. In order to contain these rising trends, sometimes hard unpopular decisions need to be taken. However, unpopular these decisions could be, they are the need of the hour and shall have to be taken at the earliest.

Although the number of calls have only marginally increased, number of deaths have increased potentially. The basic reason is that deaths are not as much due to burning but more because of inhalation of toxic fumes, which get concentrated in high density less open space area. It is the lack of circulation/ventilation within tenements. In industrial areas there is disrespect for the safety measures required and hence large numner of deaths or injury due to fires occur.

Number of fire incidents in jhuggis and jhopairs clusters/high-rise buildings have reduced while fire incidents in industrial and residential areas have increased. One of the reason for such increase is, that industrial areas have started hosting non-confirming industries and residential areas have become haven for illegal storage's and dangerous commercial activities in pursuit of mixed permitting land and occupancy in these areas. Also, disrespect to circulation space and open space and increase in congestion in these areas have caused poor accessibility to the place of tragic incidence, which takes only records to increase.

If the number of incidents of fires is carefully studied area wise in Delhi maximum percent of calls of fire incidents have been received in Shahdra, in the east division, Janakpuri (west division), Moti Nagar (northwest),Connaught Circus (central) , Roopnagar and Nehru Place in South Delhi. The reason is congestion and illegal storage of recycling material and chemicals.

If we analyze the causes of maximum number of fires in Delhi 70 percent of calls are due to electric short circuiting. This is alarming because a single cause can be disastrous to life and property that major investments are required mitigating these risks.

Short-circuiting is often a result of illegal connections, low quality wiring and therefore even if single major cause is taken, of, not only would it lead to saving innumerable lives and properties but also cut down on expenditure incurred on fire mitigation.


Causes of fire 1993-94 1994-95 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98
Electricity short circuit 5848 6473 70.40% 7433 7268
Carelessness 1701 1728 18.37% 1896 1466
Miscellaneous 308 504 0.75% 356 387
Spark M/Heat 156 258 1.73 203 160
Fire Works 139 146 1.68% 198 59
Unknown 138 184 1.49% 181 166
Naked Flame 105 133 4.59% 351 288
Intentional 75 986 0.90% 121 109
Incendiarism 45 16 - 22 16
Spontaneous 13 1 - 0 0
Radiation 10 4 - 1 0
Lighting 6 0 0 1 0
Children Playing with fire 6 2 0.00% 1 0


High population density, crowded streets, unmatching mixed occupancies, inadequate water supply, poor electrical services, unplanned siting of fire stations, encroachment are few examples of ineffective planning which adversely affect the fire response time. Under the present circumstances, a response time of 3 minutes in urban areas and 5 minutes in rural areas is very difficult to achieve. Mobilizing a large quantity of water to the fire scene in walled city area is more than fire fighting. After every fire, as a customary, fire service is blamed for one thing or the other but public, planners as wells as bureaucracy are least bothered to analyze the constraints under which services perform. Fire safety should therefore be an integral part of urban planning process rather than an after thought.