Shimla: The landmark Shimla Grand Hotel caught fire late last night, reducing a part of the building to be ashes completely. The historic hotel houses also a guest house.
A police patrol team reached the spot at quarter to one last night. By then, the fire had spread a lot. After some time, the fire brigade arrived at the spot and began extinguishing the flames.
The reason for the fire is yet to be ascertained. The police have registered a case and started investigations.
According to the information received, a policeman on duty near the CTO informed the fire brigade of the incident at 12.30 AM. Firefighters from Mall Road, Chhota Shimla, and Boileauganj fire stations rushed to the spot. However, by the time they reached the spot, the fire had engulfed the whole building. Due to lack of adequate water, the firefighters had a tough time extinguishing the flames that went up so high, they were visible from many parts of the hilly city.
The part of the building that got burnt down completely is called the Mayo Block or the VIP Block. In this part, there is a central government guest house that often hosts high-ranking bureaucrats and, sometimes, politicians including ministers. There used to be a central government office too.
Usually, the VIP Block is completely filled at weekends. The firefighters, therefore, wondered whether there were guests inside although, due to some renovation work going on in that block, the odds of that were few.
The fire spread fast because the Shimla Grand Hotel is largely a wooden structure. One could even see logs kept aside by workers to add furnishings to the building.
Five fire engines were engaged in the extinguishing work. About four hours later, the fire was finally put out. Six rooms of the guest house by then stood completely gutted.
Sources said the Shimla Grand Hotel was being renovated for the past six months. This work was contracted to a private developer who is a resident of Delhi. About 80% of the work of renovation had been finished.
The power supply to the building had been stopped since the time the renovation started. The contractor had secured a temporary connection of electricity for his labourers. Until they finished the work, the fire security of the building was the contractor’s responsibility. Yet, no labourer stayed back at night and there was no other arrangement for monitoring the Shimla Grand Hotel building.
In such a fire, the needle of suspicion points at the contractor. The police have summoned the contractor to Shimla for questioning.