Mumbai Memoir 33- Mumbai Fire Brigade- Serving with ‘fire’ in their belly!
The making of a city is a gradual process. Brick by brick constructions are raised over centuries to form cities like London, New York and Mumbai. It is an ongoing concrete evolution where one witnesses the shaping of a city. Heavy migrations and clustered residential and commercial accommodation makes the city vulnerable to disasters. No city is perfectly insulated from the wild elements of Nature. Over the centuries, both natural and artificial calamities have destroyed the skyline of famous cities around the world.
The ‘Great Fire of London’ in 1666 that started from a baker’s shop, swallowed most of the structures surrounding the river Thames. The intensity of the fire was so much that it took 4 days to douse it off! Click here for more details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNAjIxhi0Yk. It is believed that King Charles II too was part of the rescue operation to save the whole of London from turning into ashes and then helping the great city to stand up on its feet again.
New York witnessed a terrorist attack in 2001 when the twin towers of the World Trade Centre came crashing down. 343 firemen who were on duty to rescue New Yorkers died in the unfortunate incident. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HcX3iffQcI
Mumbai too has its own saga of being subjected to calamities that have scarred the city’s landscape. On 14th April 1944, a cargo ship named SS Fort Stikine was docked at Victoria dock. It contained mixed cargo of cotton bales, gold and ammunition (1,400 tons of explosive). The ship caught fire and was destroyed in two giant blasts! Click here for an original video footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuD3esOUlvc. The impact of these blasts were so humongous that pieces of iron, steel and even gold scattered in the periphery of the dock! The surrounding ships too caught fire, which was spreading inwards into the city which was then known Bombay. The Bombay Fire Brigade with all its might conducted the rescue operation and stopped the fire at the docks itself. More than 800 civilian lost their life and 66 firemen died in the deadly combat with fire that went on for 3 days. As a tribute to the firemen who lost their lives in the incident a Leyland fire engine, that was part of the rescue operation at the dock, has been preserved at Mumbai’s Byculla Fire Station. Also 14th April – 21st April is marked as ‘Fire Safety Week’ in honour of the 66 fire fighters who sacrificed their lives to save Mumbai.
The genesis of Mumbai Fire Brigade started in 1777. Locals were given Rs. 4 per day to manage hand carts and horse chariots loaded with water and get into action if there were any fire accidents in the then Bombay. In 1855, the Bombay Fire Brigade was started under the jurisdiction of Commissioner of Police. The Municipal Corporation of Bombay was later handed the responsibility of the city’s fire protection needs from 1st April 1887 onwards till date. Since then Mumbai Fire Brigade-A 128 year old institution is just not dedicated to protect Mumbai from fire but also be at service during building collapses, drowning, gas leakage, oil spillage, road and rail accidents, bird and animal rescues, managing fallen trees and assisting other services during natural disasters like floods. ‘Valour, Abnegation and Sacrifice’ is the motto of the Mumbai Fire Brigade and over the years, the firemen have walked the talk by putting the brigade’s motto into action. Though the fire department feels the pinch of not having all modern fire fighting equipments, still the firemen use all resources at their disposal to do their best.
Since the Victoria dock explosions to the recent Taj Hotel rescue mission of 2008, the fire fighters of Mumbai Fire Brigade have answered every call of duty with utmost dedication and outstanding integrity. Click here for the Taj Hotel incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSQtBBtiQFk
Last month a couple of incidents regarding the fire fighters of Mumbai touched my heart deeply. One was the demise of 4 fire fighters of Mumbai Fire Brigade who lost their lives on duty while conducting a rescue mission of a South Mumbai building (Gokul Niwas) on fire. Chief Fire Officer Mr. Sunil Nesrikar, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Sudhir Amin, Assistant Divisional Fire Officer Sanjay Rane and Station Officer Mahendra Desai succumbed of burn injuries. The other incident was seeing my workplace, Sound Ideaz Academy & Studio, meet with a fire accident. On 16th May’ 15 around 10am, a blaze of fire started from the adjacent office and spread to my workplace. Fortunately no human loss occurred but enormous damage to material and property resulted as the fire fighters combated with fire for almost 5 hours! Sharing his experience about the co-operation given by Mumbai’s Fire Brigade service, Mr. Pramod Chandorkar, the Director of Sound Ideaz Academy and Studio quotes, “They were simply outstanding in their quick response and rescue strategy. The losses could have been more had Mr. Deepak Ghosh (Assistant Divisional Fire Officer, Kandivli Fire Station) and his team not responded with utmost sharpness and pace”.
It is natural to feel down and helpless after one goes through a crisis. But I believe it is important to move on with life just like London, New York and Mumbai got back on its feet after facing their respective pains. After all it is important to give justice to the fire fighters and other people who had taken risks for our survival. They certainly didn’t protect us to see us sink into depression and get de-active in life thereafter. Post calamity, their sacrifices certainly deserve constructive initiatives from our end. Priyanka Pol, who lost all her belongings in the South Mumbai building collapse, got happily married last week. Similarly, saluting the Mumbai Fire Brigade’s effort and co-operation, like the legendary Phoenix bird, Sound Ideaz Academy and Studio too is all set to ‘rise from the ashes’ and fly higher than ever! https://youtu.be/Cnv1e9HtWQM
Photo Credits/Edits: Mid-day, Pramod Chandorkar, Shraddha Sankulkar, Aditya Chichkar and Free Internet source