Sunday, January 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Fire destroys Kasauli Club
Ambika Sharma

Kasauli, January 12
The 122-year-old historic Kasauli Club building was razed to the ground in a devastating fire which broke out last night around 10.45 pm. This elite club which has members from all over the country today presented an ugly congregate of ash and burnt wood.

Major Arun Kumar who resides near the club was the first to notice the flames emanating from the roof of the club. He immediately informed the local authorities, including the Army, the Staff Station Officer and the police. Meanwhile, people started saving whatever furniture they could. Windowpanes of the front rooms and the Secretary’s office were broken and important documents, including some furniture, were retrieved, Major Arun Kumar said.

On receiving the information, the Tehsildar, Mr J.C. Sharma, the Naib Tehsildar, Mr Praveen Taak, and the police rushed to the spot around 11.30 p.m.

A fire engine of the cantonment proved to be of little help as it failed to work. Fire-fighting operations could only begin around 12.45 a.m. with the arrival of a fire-fighting team from Parwanoo, headed by Station Fire Officer K.K. Pawar. Two fire engines started work to control the fire. He said the flames were rising 20-25 feet high.

The first thing they did was to control the fire from spreading to nearby buildings. He lamented that lack of water hampered fire-fighting operations, delaying it by about two hours. Also, there was no separate line for supplying regular water to fire engines. There was only a one-and-a-half inch water line while their hose pipes were two-and-a-half inch thick. At least a four-inch pipe was needed to generate adequate pressure.

As the news spread in the town late last night, a number of locals, in addition to Army and Air Force personnel, tried to douse the flames. It took them about three hours to bring the fire under control. The smoke, however, continued to emanate. The loss could not be ascertained yet. The metal sheet of the roof had fallen down at several places, with the entire club narrating a tale of disaster.

Though the cause of the fire would not be known, the fact that the fire started from one of the top rooms gives credence to the theory that a short-circuit caused the fire. The bar man, however, said when he left the bar around 10.15 pm, the fire place was ablaze and some members were having drinks. Every body, including club employees and members, had left around 10.30 p.m. and everything was fine then.

It is worth mentioning that factionalism in the club between the present and the former executive committee had led to the expulsion of some members. Officers have not ruled out foul play. A chowkidaar has been taken into police custody for negligence.

Police officers said blasts due to the burning of electricity wires could be heard when they arrived around 11.15 p.m. and they immediately got the electricity supply cut off.

Residents, who witnessed the chaotic scenes, however, thought that the area had been attacked and a blackout had been imposed. The three executive members who reached the spot from Chandigarh were aghast to see the club razed to the ground. They, however, stated since the club was insured it would cover up for the losses, adding that they would soon build a new one. 

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