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Fire hazards at home

In a quest to beat the rising mercury levels, people are becoming careless in buying air-conditioners. Some of these low cost ACs are defective and lead to fire accidents

Given the rate at which air conditioners and coolers are selling in the city, second hand and otherwise, it’s no surprise that a flurry of accidents has also accompanied these sales.

Quite recently, UrbanClap had an FIR registered against the household service provider in Sector 92, Gurugram. Two technicians — Ravi and Mahesh — from the company died as they were trying to fill gas in the machine and the compressor exploded. The resident of the flat also sustained injuries and had to be hospitalised.

UrbanClap officials refused to comment on what condition the appliance was in, and how such a situation came to pass. They have since been tightlipped about the incident.

This is not the only fire accident that has taken place in the recent past. As the summers have gotten warmer, people are getting more and more careless with where they are buying their appliance from, reports suggest. They often settle for whatever is cheapest and most convenient.

In these cases, as a technician working at the Haier brand store points out, there is no warranty or servicing guarantee for many of the appliances that people are taking home. “Jaldi mein le lete hain, koi warranty ke bina. Long term use ke liye kaise ho sakta hain? (People buy it in a hurry, without a warranty. How can they expect to use it long term?)”

According to Fire Department records, two such explosions took place on the same day in Delhi last year. The first incident was that of two siblings, a brother and a sister, who were home alone in Adarsh Nagar. The AC compressor exploded, and both children were charred to death.

The other fire took place in a building under construction in Kotla Mubarakpur. The cause was later identified as exposed wires on the floor where six labourers were sleeping. Two of them were unable to escape the blaze with their lives.

One of the main causes of AC compressor failure is lack of maintenance says Karun (name changed), the store attendant. “So, no matter what people say, an appliance with a warranty is much better. Simply because there is accountability,” he explains. He cautions that one has to be careful where and how the AC is installed. It cannot be fixed around flammable materials or too close to other electronic appliances. Nor should any flammable objects be stored in its vicinity.

According to Karun, faulty parts are available all over the market and being reused in second-hand machines. These stores again do not provide a warranty, effectively washing their hands off the responsibility right after selling it at a slightly lower price.

A couple living in a two-bedroom apartment in Shanti Bhavan in Saket closely missed a fire in the middle of the night. “We were awake because there was no electricity in the whole building and it was 3 am,” recalls Nira Gupta. She relates that a technician was summoned, who climbed up the pole and was attempting to fix the lines that had apparently been burned and broken.

“The electricity kept fluctuating when he was trying to fix it and suddenly there was a huge bang and we saw that the AC was on fire.” They had rushed out of their home, doing the bare minimum of turning off all the power and splashing water on a sheet that had begun to burn. “I don’t want to imagine what would have happened if we were asleep,” Gupta says as she visibly shudders from the memory. They had spent the rest of the night in their living room, until an AC technician came the next afternoon.

In our haste to fix our immediate situation, there is negligence of the smaller, often more important details. It is not that such freak accidents with coolant systems are few and far between. The most extreme ones are reported, whereas some roadside air cooler sellers in Noida say they get to hear about two such cases almost every week. “Kisiko pata nahin chalta kyunki screw driver ke saath zyaada tar theek ho jaata hain,” explains one. (Nobody gets to know because with a screw driver it usually gets fixed). He adds that for the rest, the ones that end badly, the only solution is to buy good products from trustworthy companies. But then he admits with a smile, “Par phir humare business ka kya hoga? (But then how will our business survive?)”                   n