Panaji’s wooden heritage houses are prone to fires


More than 30 heritage houses enhance the city's historic ambience, but most of these ground-plus one edifices housing small offices and private residences are structured with wooden parts and may be prone to fires.
The early morning fire in the over 100-year-old one-storeyed house with a vintage feel to it has brought to the fore, the vulnerability of such structures to sudden fires.
A noted senior citizen from Panaji, Percival Noronha, said the buildings near the old Patto bridge were some of the original houses of Panaji which were constructed during the years between 1780s to 1820s.
"These were built when the city was set up," Noronha said. But, the authorities were reluctant to give the exact number of such houses.
Prajal Sakhardande, president of the Goa heritage action group (GHAG), speaking to TOI, said there could 30-35 century-old structures with wooden floorings and flanks.
Such houses are mostly located in Mala-Fontainhas, near Church Square, near Mahalaxmi temple and St Inez, in the city.
"Though incidents of fire in old structures have been rare, I think special measures against fire in buildings with wood structuring has to be taken up," Sakhardande said, even as he pointed out that the fire service department should know better as to what should be done.
When contacted, a fire department officer said that buildings with wooden structuring have to be painted with fire resistance material. But they (fire department) are only a recommending authority and people do find ways to escape their instructions.
"We have no powers to take action and they question our authority if we try to impose them," said the officer.
He said some of the heritage government buildings in the city, which have wooden configurations, are not coated with a fire-retardant despite suggestions by the department.
A fire retardant is used to reduce flammability of fuel. "It helps to stop fire spreading thick and fast," the fire officer told TOI. [TOI]