A gas pipe that might have been leaking has been identified as the most likely cause of the fire in a Girish Park home on Wednesday night that left Ved Prakash Gupta and wife Kavita with over 90 per cent burns.
The incident had been reported to the police as being caused by a “gas-stove burst” but investigators found no evidence of an explosion. “A preliminary investigation suggested there was a leak in the pipe connecting the stove to the LPG cylinder. There was no sign of a stove or cylinder explosion,” said an officer at Girish Park police station.
According to cooking gas distributors, a pipe leak is the most commonly reported problem in households that use LPG cylinders. “A large section of our customers still uses unauthorised rubber pipes. These pipes are cheap but prone to leaks,” said an Indane distributor.
The police have sent the charred pipe and the LPG cylinder, which was found intact, for forensic tests to confirm their hypothesis that a hose leak was the culprit.
The fire had occurred on the first floor of a three-storey residential building in Sarkar Bylane, close to the Girish Park-CR Avenue crossing. Ved Prakash, 49, is battling for life at Vishuddhananda Saraswati Marwari Hospital with 98 per cent burns while Kavita is on ventilator at Desun Hospital with 95 per cent burns.
Experts say such incidents can be averted by routinely getting gas pipes checked for leaks and using only an ISI-marked hose manufactured by a reputable company. “ISI-marked pipes available with LPG distributors have a three-layered structure coated with fire-resistant chemicals,” an HP dealer said. “Wire-braiding inside these pipes protect them from rodent bites as well.”
According to a set of guidelines issued by the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, all distributors are required to carry out a mandatory inspection every two years in the homes of their customers.
“The mandatory check covers the regulator, hose and the cylinders in use. Our distributors report that many customers are reluctant to allow their personnel to carry out an inspection,” said a senior official of an oil company.
Investigators have yet to confirm whether the gas pipe used in the Gupta residence was in a poor condition. But sources said they were almost sure that the fire was fuelled by kerosene in the kitchen. “When we reached the spot, there was a strong stench of kerosene,” a fire department official said.