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 General Post Office, Chennai

 High-rise Buildings

 LIC Building, Chennai

 Moore Market, Chennai

 Spencers Building, Chennai

 Theatre, Tuticorin


Major Fire Incidents :

(11th JULY 1975)

The building which housed the Zonal and Madras Divisional Office of LIC comprised 13 storeys above ground and a basement and subbasement. The building was completed in 1959 and was of RCC framed construction. Having been designed for central air-conditioning, it was of enclosed construction with glass facings at front and rear. The air conditioning plant was in the subbasement. Connected to this were two large vertical shafts located at one end of the building going up to the roof, one meant for the supply o conditioned air and the other for return air.  These shafts were closed at the top except for a small vent. All the floors had false ceilings made of Sitatex boards on wooden frames.  The space above the false ceilings was utilised as plenum with three horizontal ducts running through the length of the building acting as supply air ducts.  While the central duct was of galvanised iron sheets the other two were of the same combustible material as the false ceiling. The side walls, above which the glass facings were fitted, had several openings on the window sills, through grills which communicated with the side ducts in the floor just below. These openings were also for the supply of conditioned air.  The plenum as well as supply air ducts connected with vertical shafts were provided with inspection doors made of timber which opened out directly to the staircase landings on each floor.  These peculiar design features of the building were primarily responsible for the rapid spread of fire to the upper floors.  At each end a staircase was provided.  The lift shafts were adjoining the  vertical air shafts at one end.  As fire fighting arrangement, the building has one 15 cm dia riser feeding first-aid hose reels as well as fire extinguishers.  For feeding the hose reels there were two overhead tanks which practically remained empty throughout the hot season. During closed hours only one watchman was present in the premises. 

The fire was first observed on the first floor by someone outside at about 2000 hrs. the State fire service units responded to the call and started fire fighting operations immediately on arrival. Although initially they were able to gain some control over the fire, it went on spreading rapidly from floor to floor which necessitated deployment of the entire fire fighting resources of the city, including units from Port Trust, Refinery, etc. The fire fighting operations continued throughout the night as was as till about 1800 hrs, on the following day.  During the initial stages the fire fighting operations were seriously hampered due to falling splinters of glass, burning fragments and molten metal from window frames of aluminum. Also, due to heavy smoke and hot gases, both the stairways could not be used.   Heavy sea breeze also helped in the rapid spread of fire.  The fire brigade personnel had a very exacting experience and some members sustained injuries. As the city hydrants had paucity of water the fire fighting operations mostly depended upon the fleet of water lorries provided by the Corporation which were utilized for relaying water from the Cooum river which was about 0.5 km away.

From the second floor upwards all the floors were severely damaged due to fire.  In the upper floors there was nothing left except the charred and twisted steel furniture.  However, the basement housing the IBM machine and air-conditioning plant, the ground floor and the first floor were saved.  Some of the upper floors were seen to have developed cracks on the walls and columns.  Since the structural stability of the building was in doubt the building remained out of use for a long time until it was inspected by experts and got repaired. The fire was thought to have originated from some waste materials at the bottom of the vertical shafts. The LIC building fire had led to focus the existing shortcomings and inadequacies in the design and the state of fire protection of multistoried buildings in our country and helped in formulating comprehensive recommendations for strengthening fire protection measures for such buildings.

(29 JULY 1979)

An example of a Cinema Hall fire that took place in Tamil Nadu was a fire in Lakshmi Touring Talkies at Lourdhammalpuram, Tuticorin.  On 29.07.1979 about 4.30 p.m fire broke out in this touring talkies on the outskirts of Tuticorin.  The construction was of inflammable material (thatched leaves) and hence the fire spread very quickly.  Several persons escaped, but several other persons were unable to escape and were burnt to death within the theatre itself.  Some others who escaped had sustained injuries and some of them succumbed to injuries. Over a hundred persons reportedly died in the disaster. One of the main point of controversy was how the gates other than the entrance which were admittedly closed, were fastened.  Licensee contented that thattis were fastened by twine using a “sulukku” (kÇ]a).  Others contended that the thattis were fixed to supporting poles by iron wires so tightly that they could not be unfastened.  This prevented the spectators from opening the closed thattis when fire broke out and escaping through apertures which were intended to be the exits in such emergencies.  There were only one entrance for women and children.  Most of the bodies were heaped one over the other at this point.  The picture ran properly for the first half an hour.  Then there was an interval and after about 5 mts the picture resumed, when there was a small fire.  This spread rapidly.  The fire was from behind the screen.  It rose up and shot to the roof.  Short circuiting behind the screen was the cause of the fire.  Even though there were 12 places, where power could have been taken from the distribution board, it was taken only from 7 and dummy fuses were inserted in the other 5, while regular fuse were inserted in 7.  From the evidence of the Electrical Inspector, short circuit in the 230-v line leading to the speaker must have caused the fire.  The wire to the speaker came from the roof and without any support.  The wire freely moved about and so must have come together.  The wires were not changed after they were fitted on October ’77.  The insulation wore out. The last inspection was done by Electrical Inspector on 23.08.78.  Some of the fuse wires had not blown off because they were thicker than the permitted size.  None of the fuses recovered from the cabin room had blown off.  9 fuses had not blown from the power room and 7 from the distribution board.  As per the practice in the Electrical Department, the officers do not verify whether the defects said to have been rectified were actually rectified or not.  In this case many defects were pointed out during inspection on 23.08.78.  Sufficient buckets of water as prescribed under the regulation were not even kept.

Number persons lost their lives is 73 and 88 were injured.  Property lost is Rs. 20,000/- and saved is Rs. 60,000/-

(13TH FEBRUARY 1981)

On 13.02.1981in the evening fire broke out at Spencer Building, situated at D.No 769, Anna Salai, Chennai 600 002. On receipt of the fire call at 19.55 hrs the personnel of Egmore Fire Station immediately rushed to the spot. On arrival the personnel could see devastating fire which was spreading rapidly due to wind. Immediately on studying the situation, the personnel took steps to prevent fire from spreading. In the meantime, on receipt of information about the fire accident through Fire Control Room the fire service vehicles from Triplicane, Teynampet and Fire Service vehicles from all over the City Fire Stations along with personnel came to the spot and engaged in extinguishing the fire. Due to the density of fire Bronto Skylift warranted to putting out the fire. Nine of the Fire Service personnel, who sustained injuries during the fire fighting, were admitted to Government Hospital for treatment. It took six hours to extinguish the fire totally.

Property lost in this fire was about Rs. 60 lakhs and property saved was Rs. 1.60 Crores

(30th May, 1985)

On 30.5.85 early morning Moore Market Commercial Complex went into flames. On receipt of the  information at 00.32 hours of the outbreak of fire in the complex, personnel of the Vepery Fire Station along with vehicle reached the spot immediately. In addition to Vepery Fire Station Vehicle, Seven more Vehicles with personnel were sent to the spot. On arrival the personnel could see the flames which was spreading rapidly. The Fire Service Personnel took immediate steps to prevent the spread of fire. The Simon Snorkel was used extensively in the operation. More than 100 Fire Fighting Personnel were vigorously involved in extinguishing the fire.  However, about 300 shops were gutted in this fire accident. Property worth Rs.1 Crore approximately was lost with an estimated amount of Rs.10 Crores was saved due to the effective fire fighting operation.

(5th MARCH, 1999)

Air France Aircraft AF-6745 (Boeing 747) cargo carrier flying from Paris to Jeddah - Bangalore - Chennai enroute to Karachi and back to Paris, caught fire after landing at Chennai Airport at about 23.30 hours on 05.03.1999. Immediately Airport Fire Service swung action and began fire fighting operations. Air Field Fire Rescue Vehicle, 5 Crash Fire Tender and 1 Water Tender and Ambulance was pressed into service.

Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services control room at Chennai received the information about fire at 23.35 hours. Immediately 2 numbers of Fire Units from Guindy and Tambaram were rushed to the scene of fire. Subsequently 4 more fire units. Including Two Foam Tenders and Two Water Tenders were rushed to the spot. Three Water Lorries from Metrowater followed the Fire Units. Subsequently eight more water lorries also reached the scene. The Airport Fire Station and Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services personnel conducted intense Fire Fighting. Director of Fire Service along with Deputy Director and two Divisional Fire Officers and about 50 firemen and Assistant Director (Fire), Airport Fire Service and 40 others from Airport Fire Service battled for over three hours and finally extinguished the fire at 02.30 hours on 06.03.1999.

There was no loss of human life in the accident. The Aircraft that went into flames was carrying cargo of clothes and cut flowers. The flight data recorder was recovered during the fire fighting operation.

(23 OCTOBER 2000)

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On 23.10.2000 early morning fire broke out at General Port Office situated ate D.NO19/20 Rajaji Salai, Chennai 600 001. On receipt of the fire call at 00.40 hrs the personnel of Explande Fire Station immediately rushed to the spot at 00.45 hrs. On arrival the personnel could see devastating fire which was spreading rapidly due to wind. Immediately on studying the situation, the personnel took steps to prevent fire from spreading.  In the meantime, on receipt of the fire     task F.C.R. the fire service vehicles from Washermanpet, Vepery, Secretariat, Egmore, Royapuram, Teynampet, Ashoknagar, Tondairpet, Kilpauk, Vysarpadi, Triplicane and Saidapet Fire Stations along with personnel came to the spot and engaged in extinguishing the fire. Due to the density of fire Bronto Skylift and Turn Table warranted to putting out the fire. Metrowater had supplied enough water through its water lorries to the spot, which helped greatly in putting out the fire. It took seven hours to extinguish the fire totally.

Property lost in this fire was about Rs One Crore and property saved was Rs Ten Crores.

Police are investigating the case to find out the cause of fire.



LIC Building, Chennai

Date of incident :  01.07.1975
No. of stories :  13+2   Basement
No. of persons died :  Nil
No. of persons injured :  Few Firemen
Brief details : RCC enclosed construction designed for central air conditioning. The fire first took hold on First Floor at about       8 p.m. and spread rapidly to the floors above through several vertical openings and shafts.  The fire fighting operations continued till 6 p.m. following day.  From the Second Floor upwards all floors were severely damaged.  The fire was thought to have originated from some waste materials at the base of the vertical shafts.  The building had certain peculiar construction features and inadequate fire protection arrangements which made the fire spread upward easily.  LOSS Rs Five Crores.


National Insurance Building, Chennai

Date of Incident :  02.05.1997
No. of stories :  H.R.
No. of persons died :  Nil
No. of persons injured :  Nil

Brief Details :

 Major fire which engulfed the entire building.  Fire fighting operations went on for 4 hours.  Property loss heavy.


Telephone Exchange, Chennai

Date of Incident :  23.06.1997
No. of stories :  7
No. of persons died :  Nil
No. of persons injured :  Nil

Brief Details :

Fire broke out on the Fourth floor ad soon spread to the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh floors at about 0345 hrs.  25 fire Tenders and 150 fire fighters tackled the fire for 2 hrs.  The fire was completely put out by 0800 hrs. Restoration of affected telephone lines took about a month.  Cause of fire was under investigation.  Loss several crores.