| Firefighters try to douse the fire at the commissioner’s office in Jorhat. File picture |
Jorhat, July 11: Something as innocuous as an electric iron may be behind the blaze that engulfed the heritage building Jorhat prided itself on, graced by Prince Philip, the duke of Edinburgh.
An inquiry into the fire which damaged the Upper Assam’s commissioner’s office here a month back has ruled out a short circuit and said an electric iron, which was not switched off, may have started the fire.
Gurdeep Singh Panneswar, sub-divisional officer (Sadar), who was in-charge of the investigation, said a staff of the commissioner’s residence may have plugged in the iron and forgotten to switch it off.
“The iron was kept on a wooden table which might have caught fire because of the long time it was kept on and thereafter the curtains and wooden ceiling beams caught fire. A distinct burnt patch in the shape of the appliance where the hot iron had fallen on the wooden floor was seen, which helped to draw this conclusion,” he said.
Upper Assam commissioner S.I. Hussain, while not ruling out the possibility, said it may not have been the sole cause of the fire.
“It could be that a grade IV staff had used the iron in my absence. I had gone to Guwahati to attend a meeting and this may have been one of the probable causes of the fire,” Hussain said.
The commissioner is working from the ground floor of the two-storeyed building with the PWD buildings division, by placing a tarpauline on the damaged roof over a bamboo frame to keep out the rainwater.
Hussain is temporarily residing at the circuit house here and will soon shift to another government quarter near Rajmao Pukhuri.
P.K. Dey, executive engineer of PWD buildings division said the estimate for repair of the damaged portion was being prepared at the chief engineer’s office and would be sent to the general administration department for sanction within a fortnight.
“The design of the structure will be kept as it was and the materials to be used will also be the same so the British-era building retains its heritage look. This will entail a lot of work and craftsmanship by carpenters as most of the roof was made of wood. The quality of wood, however, may not be the same as the teak used earlier,” Dey said.
The office-cum-residence of the Upper Assam commissioner is one of the oldest buildings in Assam, built in 1921. A portion of it was gutted in the fire on June 10.
The fire started on the first floor of the two-storeyed bungalow, nearly 4km from Jorhat, which was constructed as the official residence of the Jorehaut Tea Company superintendent. In February 1961, Prince Philip, duke of Edinburgh, had spent a night at the bungalow.