A Burrabazar building that had over 100 families living in it was ablaze till past Monday midnight and 30 fire engines were trying to ensure the flames did not leap to Neighbouring buildings.
No casualty had been reported till midnight. Most residents had scurried to safety before the fire engines made their way to the vicinity of Lal Kothi at 3 Amratala Lane, near Bagri Market.
The fire started between 9 and 9.30pm in a flat on the first floor of the three-storey building. It spread fast at a place where people live cheek by jowl and the corridors are clogged with inflammables.
The ground floor of the building houses godowns and stores and there are several stores on the first floor too. Many of them looked ravaged around 1am.
Vikas Jain, who has a toy store on the first floor, did not expect any of his goods to survive. He had toys worth over Rs 20 lakh in a 2,000sq ft space. “Nothing remains,” he said looking desolate as the firemen struggled to hose the water deep into the building.
A few metres away, Nadeem and his family had packed whatever they could in a hurry and were moving to a relative’s house nearby. They live at 3A Amratala Lane and the firemen had asked its residents to evacuate as well. “We’re not safe,” he said.
Like in any Burrabazar blaze, the fire engines struggled to reach the affected building. They had to park on Rabindra Sarani, about 100 metres away and drag the pipes as close as they could. Water was being sprayed from the terraces of the adjoining buildings as well as from the road below.
A fireman said he suspected short circuit in the flat and then it spread “super fast” because there were “inflammables everywhere”.
The building, at the junction of Canning Street and Rabindra Sarani, was stacked with bags, umbrellas, dyes for saris and stuffed toys, all of which kept fuelling the fire.
Faisal, who lives across the lane, said they first saw thick smoke billowing out of the terrace of Lal Kothi and then the flames. “The fire was soon all over the building,” he said.
Firemen said they were finding it difficult to reach the source of fire. Amratala Lane is about 10ft wide.
The firemen smashed shutters of the shops and godowns on the ground floor to let in water pipes. The reservoir at the nearby Nakhoda Masjid was of great help.
But having buildings so close to each other also helped in the speedy evacuation.
Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, also the fire services minister, was on the spot supervising the operation that involved several hundred firemen and scores of local people like Faisal.
“The area is very congested. We are having to fight the fire from rooftops and from the sides. There is a lot of tin and plastic inside, which is making the task difficult. But now we have reached the situation where the fire will no longer spread,” the mayor said around 12.15am.
Power supply to the area had been cut off and hundreds of households were plunged into darkness.