Fire at two sections of the Ferozsons building’s basement, still burning on the seventh day, may be extinguished on Tuesday (today), Rescue 1122 Executive officer (Operations) Dr Rizwan Ahmed told The Express Tribune on Monday.
He rejected a suggestion that the fire fighting effort had not been up to the mark and said that firefighters had been careful to avoid unnecessary damage to the historic building.
Rescue 1122 officials on the site told The Tribune that they had made an opening in the roof at one of the sections (the front) and were about to start pouring water on the fire underneath. They hoped that fire in that section would be extinguished by Monday night. However, they said, fire at the other section (at the back end) of the basement could not be put out until piles of books on the way were removed to improve access for fire fighters.
Rescue 1122 official Hammad Hasan said they had asked the management to remove the books so that fire fighting could commence in the section. “It is the owners’ responsibility … rescue workers will accompany them to put out the fire, but they cannot move books from the basement on their own,” he said. He said it was risky but there was no other way to reach the section at the rear end of the basement.
Ferozsons manager Shamsul Hasan Madni said the suggestion had been communicated to the owners. He said the management would wait for the owners to decide if they wanted to remove all books from the basement.
However, Executive Officer (Operations) Ahmed, said that the Rescue 1122 had not asked the management to remove books from the basement.
Muhammad Zahid, a Fire Brigade official, told The Express Tribune that at least 10 water tankers were being emptied into the basement of the building every day since May 30, when the fire started. “I am surprised where all the water is disappearing. The quantity of water we have used is enough to fill the entire basement,” he said. “It seems there is drain passing beneath the basement floor,” he said. “So far, we have emptied 400 tankers at the site,” he said.
Fire had started at the ground floor of the Ferozsons building on May 30.
What caused the fire is yet to be determined. Fire fighters say there was no electricity when fire broke out at the building, ruling out short circuit as an explanation.
The roof of the three-storey structure has partially caved in and a large number of books have been destroyed. The façade of the building, however, remains intact.
Ghulam Rasool Building, housing the bookshop is one of the 169 buildings in the city that were declared protected sites under the Punjab Special Premises Ordinance of 1985.
Orya Maqbool Jan, former director of Archaeology Department, told The Tribune that the owner and the government were both liable for protection of a building once it was declared a heritage site.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2012.