No one was reported injured. The warehouse, spread over 25,000 sqft and consisting of mostly huge tin sheds storing groceries, oil, vegetables, domestic items and other goods, along with 21 electric vehicles used for transporting goods, was damaged. “A safe containing around Rs6 lakh cash was partially damaged. We searched the key from the ashes and safely removed the entire cash,” Pune fire brigade officer Gajanan Pathrudkar said.
A company spokesperson said in a statement, “A fire broke out at Big Basket’s Pune godown on Sunday night between 11pm and 12pm which has resulted in the damage of most of the assets therein. Preliminary investigations indicate that it was the outcome of a short circuit in one of the bike-charging units.”
It added, “Our team is undertaking a detailed investigation. Fortunately, the fire alarm got activated due to which all night shift employees could be assembled in a safe area. At Big Basket, our employees will always be our first priority in case of any eventuality…We will decide the further course of action once all investigations have been carried out and the situation has been assessed properly.”
Pune’s chief fire officer, Prashant Ranpise told TOI, “Prima facie, short circuit appears to be the most likely cause of the fire.” Inspector Balkrushna Sawant of the Hinjewadi police said, “A team of fire experts from the public works department will examine the site to establish the cause of fire and is expected to submit a report relating to the same. For now, we have registered a case of accidental fire.”
With assistance from MIDC, PMRDA and Pimpri Chinchwad fire brigades, the blaze was brought under control by 2.30am on Monday and cooling operations went on till 5.30am. “We managed to save over 20 three and four-wheelers,” said Pathrudkar.
One of the warehouse employees at the site told TOI on Monday that the blaze started from an electric vehicle charging point and spread out to the adjacent AC cold storage unit and other areas. “There were some 10-12 people inside the warehouse as many had left on account of change in shift timing. Two security guards were also on duty,” the employee said
As the fire grew in intensity, residents from Bavdhan Budruk rushed to the site and started alerting and helping those inside the warehouse move out to safer places. “The warehouse also employs many hearing and speech impaired individuals and they were moved out to safer places on priority,” said Dayawan Bandal, an eyewitness.
“Soon after the fire broke out from the e-vehicles charging station, two security guards immediately started alerting the employees inside the warehouse. “One of the guards, Amol Gaikwad, also tried to douse the fire with the fire extinguishers. But, it did not prove useful. I then forced him to come out,” Bandal said.
He said several light commercial vehicles were parked on the warehouse premises. “As the fire was massive, the owners of these vehicles started screaming for help. Some local residents broke the window glasses of many of these vehicles and pushed them out. It was difficult to touch the vehicles because of the heat. The villagers soaked their hands in mud and pushed the vehicles out.”
Bandal’s relatives own the land on which the warehouse has been developed for storage and distribution of various items mainly to distribute in the Baner, Bavdhan, Kothrud and Shivajinagar areas.
Guard Amol Gaikwad said there were cans filled with about 400 litres of diesel for generators. “We shifted the diesel outside with the fire brigade’s help,” he said.
The fire affected the company’s distribution work to a great extent in areas like Kothrud, Warje, Baner, Bavdhan and Shivajinagar. “My wife tried to place an order for some groceries. But she received a message that all slots on Monday are full,” Warje resident Sameer Joshi told TOI.