A fire reduced two godowns lacking safety measures to ashes and burned parts of several adjacent ones in a thickly populated neighbourhood in Cossipore on Sunday afternoon.
Twenty-five tenders controlled the blaze, first spotted around 4.50pm amidst a downpour, before it could spread to the shanties nearby.
Fire officers said the gutted godowns — Durga Distemper and Zenith Paints — were located on Lockgate Road, off the Cossipore flyover. The flyover was closed to traffic from 5.30pm till late on Sunday, resulting in traffic disruptions.
“We have learnt that neither godown had a fire licence. A preliminary probe revealed that they did not have any fire-fighting preparedness,” said Tapan Ghosh, the divisional fire officer.
“We will run a check on the other godowns of the area as well,” said another fire officer.
Madhu Pande, an employee of Durga Distemper, said he raised an alarm and alerted the fire department after spotting smoke billowing out of the godown.
“It was raining outside. I suddenly saw thick smoke billowing out and soon the godown went up in flames. We called up the fire department. The adjoining Zenith Paints, too, caught fire around the same time,” said Pande.
Local residents protested in front of fire minister Javed Khan when he reached the spot, alleging that his department had reacted late.
Local Congress councillor Suman Singh, too, said the godowns could have been saved had enough tenders rushed to the spot on time.
“The fire brigade was alerted at 5.30pm. They had initially sent two tenders that failed to control the blaze. Larger tenders were pressed into service an hour later. By then, the two godowns had turned to ashes,” said Singh.
“It was a close shave. The godowns are surrounded by shanties. Had the fire spread to any of them, there would have been a disaster,” said a resident.
Minister Khan, however, denied the allegations of delayed response. “If there was any delay, it was because of narrow roads leading to the spot and snarl.”