Four floors of the eleven-storey Himalaya House were gutted and three others were damaged in a “serious fire” that broke out at 6.20 am on Monday. The office complex mainly has commercial establishments.
A security guard, Jai Bhagwan (57), died of asphyxia, after he collapsed on the staircase between the ninth and the eighth floors. Fire officials said it seemed Bhagwan was trying to escape when he lost consciousness.
Two other security guards — Shiv Kumar and Raj Kumar — were rescued from the ninth and third floors.
Rescue officials said they came to know of people being trapped inside when one of the men stuck inside called a relative, who called the Fire department.
A total of 30 fire tenders were dispatched to the spot. Officials said the blaze was brought under control in five and half hours.
Officials said the fire started on the third floor, inside the office of Sriram Piston Pvt Ltd, an automobile spare parts shop. Renovation work was on at many of the 144 shops inside the building, including in Sriram Piston’s shop. Plywood, adhesive boxes, loose cables and spare renovation material lying there fuelled the fire, which spread quickly, an official said.
Third to sixth floors were completely gutted and a portion of the seventh floor was also damaged in the blaze. Property on eighth and ninth floors was also damaged, the official said.
Fire officials suspect that a short-circuit triggered the fire and blasts of an LPG cylinder blast and an AC compressor intensified it.
Officials said the fire spread through the electrical shafts, staircases and open windows. “Had the shafts on each floor been shut, the fire could have been prevented from spreading,” a senior Fire official said.
A K Sharma, Chief Fire Officer, said: “30 fire tenders were rushed to the spot and three hydraulic cranes were used to douse the inferno. During the operation, one crane collapsed due to an earth cave-in. But this happened after the crane had been used for one and a half hours.”
Security guard Ramesh said they had initially tried to douse the flames. “The fire started at 5.45 am. Initially, we thought we could douse it ourselves. But it spread and a PCR call was made,” he said.
Fire chief Sharma said renovation material lying in the corridors hampered rescue efforts. The electricity supply to the building continued despite the fire, affecting the fire-fighting. “The NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council) was asked to cut off the electricity supply, but it took almost an hour. Later, we found that a generator was running and that had to be shut down. We lost about an hour and half,” he said.
The Himalaya House has an NOC from the Fire department, Sharma said. “But they were not working. We are investigating why they weren’t working.”
NDMC, in a statement, said: “We received a call at 6.20 am about the fire. Personnel from the Electricity department of the NDMC were rushed to Himalaya House, who disconnected the electricity supply of the entire building within 10 minutes — around 6.30 am. However, the electricity supply in the building continued for some time due to automatic private diesel generator sets.”
The NDMC provided 15 firemen and two vehicles (one water tender vehicle and one emergency response vehicle) to assist the Fire-Fighting operation.
Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Connaught Place
Mainly commercial establishments
Banks on the first two floors
4 general elevators
1 service elevator
2 fire exits — one staircase at the back, one at the left of the building
Fire starts in the third storey
Rises to fourth, fifth and sixth floor
All four floors gutted in the blaze 7th floor also damaged