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Old 18th March 2009, 22:42   #1
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Default A fiery experience

Time: 5:20pm.
Location: Our Langford Road showroom.

Phone rings. It is from our regional managerfor Bangalore from our garage equipment division calling. He is the guy I usually call if something goes wrong with our machines. I pick up.

Mr. R: Nikhil, there is some major confusion in our office. The building next door has caught fire and there is a lot of smoke and we have evacuated everyone, but there is a lot of confusion and chaos.

I try to find out more details but cannot hear anything over the din of fire engines and other noises. I instantly drop everything I'm doing and rush out of the office. It's peak hour traffic and I take 20 mins to get to K R road on my bike.

The narrow road has obviously been blocked, so I park my bike a little away and walk down to our office. My mom has her counselling practice on the first floor, so she's also very worried as that section has been recently renovated and the whole office has been recently painted.

My mom wants to enter and check if anything has happened. I'm dead against this idea but well, mothers have this special ability to be especially firm when they want to. We(mom, myself and another person from our office) enter and instantly, our eyes start tearing up.

The fire is raging in the next building and our office is filled with smoke. Hot smoke. It actually singes your nostrils and throat. I for the first time experienced what it actually means to be in a burning building.

From what we could see, the fire didnt seem to have spread to our building. There is a small clearance between the two buildings and that seems to have saved us. However, the fire is raging and there is no telling what is going to happen next.

We hurry out coughing and lock the main door to our office and stand back to wait. There are already three fire engines. One is already out of water and leaves. A few minutes later, another comes in. A few more minutes later, one more. Finally there are 4 fire engines.

A little bit about the building next door: It is some factory which makes plastic products. I dont know exactly what the raw material is, but is a petroleum product. Do I actually need to explain more about the fire's rapid progress?

The first two floors of that building are burning away merrily. The fire department seems helpless to do anything. No one has the equipment to tackle the fire properly which is to enter the building and attack the source. Smoke is billowing out of the building.

I do feel for the firemen. They really are trying their best. However, they are totally ill equipped. No masks, nothing! They are wrapping handkerchiefs around their mouths and noses and walking in. Many of them are stumbling because their boots are so big, their feet are not fitting properly in them. It seems hopeless.

To be continued....
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Old 19th March 2009, 00:09   #2
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Damn! Thats bad. I hope no one was injured.
Nikhil, did you mention elsewhere that your shop was destroyed in a fire, or was that something to do with the widening of roads? I'm kinda confused.

Its really sad that the Indian Govt doesn't do anything to have better equipped emergency response teams, be it fire/medical or other teams(such as those required to deal with terrorist-related events).
The least that can be done is to have fire fighting personnel in appropriate attire with sufficient safety equipment.
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Old 19th March 2009, 00:15   #3
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I am able to spot 108 Ambulance in the images posted by you. I hope that no living creature is seriously injured in this.
Glad to know the fire did not spread to your building.
I am now eager to know more details.
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Old 19th March 2009, 09:26   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nitin View Post
Damn! Thats bad. I hope no one was injured.
Nikhil, did you mention elsewhere that your shop was destroyed in a fire, or was that something to do with the widening of roads? I'm kinda confused.

Its really sad that the Indian Govt doesn't do anything to have better equipped emergency response teams, be it fire/medical or other teams(such as those required to deal with terrorist-related events).
The least that can be done is to have fire fighting personnel in appropriate attire with sufficient safety equipment.
One tyre showroom is on it's way out due to Metro work coming up. This is a different office. This is the regional office of our garage equipment division.
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Old 19th March 2009, 15:10   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikhilb2008 View Post
They are totally ill equipped. No masks, nothing! They are wrapping handkerchiefs around their mouths and noses and walking in. Many of them are stumbling because their boots are so big, their feet are not fitting properly in them.
This totally sucks. They work so hard to save lives at their own risk and no basic equipment is provided to them.

Shame on the government.
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Old 19th March 2009, 15:19   #6
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If entering a smoke filled area, please cover your mouth and nose with a wet cloth.

Smoke can harm you faster than the fire can reach you.

Feel very sorry for those ill equipped but brave firemen.

But its the same story with every service system, be it the Police, ParaMedical or the armed forces.
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Old 19th March 2009, 15:33   #7
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Sad to hear about the plight of the firemen. Real shame that we lose so many precious lives due to inadequate/poor quality equipment, else this type of fire seems fairly simple to tackle given the proper breathing apparatus and fire fighting equipment. We always seem to need heroes rather than have proper processes in place.
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Old 19th March 2009, 15:47   #8
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Sad to hear about the incidence. I sincerly hope you had insured your office against fire. One actually burst into tears when his beloved workplace is torned and burnt apart and one is simply helpless.
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Old 19th March 2009, 16:07   #9
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Sirjee where is the rest of the story?
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Old 19th March 2009, 18:53   #10
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Sorry!! Got busy with work. Will post remaining after dinner.
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Old 19th March 2009, 22:01   #11
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As usual, there is a huge crowd gathered around the area. The police come around and ask everyone to move back to give more space to the 108 ambulance and the fire engines. Some people try to act oversmart and get whacked on their shins by the lathi. We are also pushed back and we can actualyl see the flames licking at the window of the 1st floor. Orange flames are clearly visible. This is about half an hour after the first fire engines had arrived.

Things dont look good. By this time, another fire engine had arrived. The firemen then use a different strategy. A couple of them aim the hose at the ground floor and a couple of them climb onto the fire engine and aim at the 1st floor window.

We have a couple of air conditioners at the back of our building. They are very close to the building which is on fire and if a fire has to spread, that would be the easiest way.

A person from our office and me head to the balcony kind of place behind out office. We see that the AC wires are completely melted and fried. There is a water tank on the roof of the factory. The guy from our office gets onto the roof of the ground floor of the factory and start pouring some water on the wires just to cool them down. They are so hot, at some points, they are actually on fire. Looks like we realised this weak point just in time.

While we are on the roof, we see bursts of foam or whatever chemical the fire department is using to fight the fire coming out of the rear windows. It gives us a clue that the firemen are finally making headway.

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We head back down and the smoke pouring out of the windows is definitely lesser. Not as much as it was a few minutes ago. I guess the new strategy of the department to attack the fire from 2 different places finally paid dividends.

They are now able to make their way inside the burning building and get closer to the source of the fire. By 6:30, things seem to be under control.

A fiery experience-dsc02497.jpg
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We speak to a fire department official and ask him to send someone with us inside our office just to inspect it. One person comes in with us, declares everything is safe, orders us to open all windows and doors and forces us to come out and lock the door.

We do hang about for some more time, but it looks like the blaze is extinguished. The fire department too is rolling up the hoses and the fire trucks are leaving.

I believe that initially the fire trucks were loaded with plain water which made fighting this petroleum fire very difficult. Later when they realised what they were dealing with, they got some other chemical or foam to spray on the fire.

We are about to leave when someone tells us that there is a barrel of paint thinner inside the factory which is very very hot. Supposedly, a little more and it could have exploded. It is still very hot and very unsafe. No one is brave enough to go near it.

We lock our office and leave.

Later that night, my mom and me go back. We knew that the smoke would have cleared quite a bit so we want to take stock of the damages.

I thought exactly like bblost. I had armed myself with a bottle of water and two towels. Plan was to wet the towels and wrap our mouths and noses in it if the smoke was still too thick. Surprisingly, there was no smoke at all! Of course, there was a horrible smell throughout the building, but no major smoke as such.

We inspected the building with a torch and saw that while there was no major visible damage, there were sections where the paint was cracked and in some places the plaster too had cracked. The worst part is, this whole office was repainted just recently.

The walls were still very hot to touch. You couldnt keep your hand on the wall for more than a few seconds. This was more than 4 hours after the fire was extinguished. If the wall was this hot now, I couldnt even imagine how hot it would have been at the peak of the fire.

The wires inside the wall are sure to have melted.

Today morning, we learnt that at 2:00 am, there was ANOTHER blaze in the same factory. No one knows what caused that, but at least it was put out quickly. Two fire trucks were rushed to the building. Maybe the barrel of thinner had caught fire? Maybe something else caught fire? No one knows for sure now.

Today morning, my mom and dad went to the office and the walls were still very hot.

In some places, there are burn marks on the walls. But in most places, it is just a fine layer of soot covering everything.

We do have our building insured against fire, but it would have still been a big big loss. Luckily, fate had other things in store for us.

Things could have been much worse. We have a lot of files in our ground floor and if the fire had made it's way there, it would have spread very quickly through our office also. Luckily, nothing of that sort happened.

No one was killed or even injured in the other building. The blaze was controlled and restricted to only one building.

In the end, it's been a big shock to everyone, but everyone's glad that it wasnt worse.

This was my first experience with a proper fire and it hit close to home because it happened right next to our office.
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Last edited by Rehaan : 20th March 2009 at 09:58. Reason: Placing inserted pics one below the other.
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Old 19th March 2009, 22:30   #12
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Good that there we not Injury.

Hope insurance will cover the damage to your office.
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Old 19th March 2009, 23:18   #13
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Thats very very bad. Read about this in today's newspaper, the building which caught fire supposedly didn't have even a single fire extinguisher according to that report. For a factory that even deals with some kind of petroleum products, its unpardonable if the said report is true.

However Nikhil, when the walls are heated up this way, its always better to consult a structural engineer to examine the building before commencing regular activities again. I too hope that insurance would cover all your damages.
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