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Worli fire: Bravehearts climb 33 floors to douse flames

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MUMBAI: Unable to deploy their tallest hydraulic platform, firefighters had only one way to reach the site of the fire at BeauMonde Towers. Wearing heavy gears, that included firefighting/ breathing apparatus, they climbed 33 flights of stairs, even as there was no backup from outside the building.

“We had made up our mind. Come what may, we will fight the fire using whatever resources available,” said Mumbai chief fire officer Prabhat Rahangdale, who led his team to the duplex penthouse. He said it was a major challenge going up to 33 floors. Then the firefighters climbed onto a ledge of the building and fought the blaze.

“People standing down could see the flames coming out of the duplex apartment. Little did they know that we had a team of 12 personnel with breathing apparatus inside the flat, risking their lives and dousing the flames with the internal firefighting equipment which was in working condition,” he recalled. The 12 firemen battled the blaze relentlessly despite the heat, the smoke and chances of suffocation.

Rahangdale planned the operations on the spot. He deployed 12 more personnel on standby. “So when the team would get exhausted inside the flat, I would push them out and let in the second set of firemen to continue the operations,” he said. Each breathing apparatus would last for just 35 to 40 minutes. “We had a battery of firemen who were rotated and ensured that every time the flames resurfaced, there were water jets to douse it,” he said.

Officials said that regular fire drill helped them rise to the occasion. Sometimes this could also turn into a tragedy. In 2014, around 21 firemen who entered a 22-storey Lotus Business Park building for firefighting operation, were trapped on the terrace as their ladder was unable to reach the top floor. A chopper was called to airlift them, but that was risky because fire was spreading. Finally other fireman managed to reach the terrace and rescue them. One of the trapped fireman died in the incident.

Fire officials stated they always have to take such risk because internal firefighting is often more affective.

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