16 more firemen could have died in Kalbadevi blaze: Acting fire chief

Commending his men for the bravery shown by them in rescuing two of their colleagues, acting fire chief P S Rahangdale admitted that the 16 rescuers could have died because the building collapsed within a couple of minutes after the second person was rescued

In the wake of an inquiry panel questioning the need for the firemen to enter the burning Gokul Niwas building in Kalbadevi, considering that none of the occupants were trapped inside, the acting chief fire officer has praised the bravery shown by his men in saving their colleagues.

Rahangdale insisted that the four firemen who had got trapped, including the two who died, had not entered the building and were only near the entrance. FILE PIC
Rahangdale insisted that the four firemen who had got trapped, including the two who died, had not entered the building and were only near the entrance. File Pic

The acting chief fire officer, P S Rahangdale, said 16 of his men risked death to try and save four of their colleagues — including their chief, Sunil Nesarikar — who got trapped after a portion of the porch collapsed. They managed to rescue Nesarikar and Deputy Chief Fire Officer Sudhir Amin, but the building collapsed a couple of minutes after that, leading to the deaths of senior firemen Sanjay Rane and Mahendra Desai, who were still trapped inside.

Calling the rescue “more than a calculated risk”, however, Rahangdale admitted that luck played a big role in the 16 rescuers escaping with their lives as the building fell just two minutes after Amin was rescued.

“Going near Gokul Niwas while the fire was raging was a calculated risk. But going inside to extricate Amin was more than a calculated risk because the building came down just two minutes after that. All my men would have gone (dead),” said acting chief fire officer P S Rahangdale in praise of his bravehearts.

“There are four types of responses to a crisis — one is a standard response, second is a heroic response, third is calculated risk and the fourth is more than calculated risk. When the four officials went near the burning building, it was a calculated risk. But when firemen went inside to extricate Amin, it was more than a calculated risk, since the building caved in just two minutes after he was extracted. All my men could have died,” said Rahangdale.

While Nesarikar suffered 56 per cent burns, Amin is on ventilator with 95 per cent burns. Both are being treated at the National Burns Centre in Airoli.

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“I don’t think the chief fire officer should have entered the building,” said Samajwadi Party corporator Ashraf Azmi. He insisted that the rescue operations had been completed and the mishap could have been prevented. Former mayor Shraddha Jadhav also said that the fire chief as well as the other officials could have avoided entering the building. “But it is just my opinion. After all, they are the experts in that field. In such crises, decisions are taken spontaneously.”

Jadhav also pointed out that another 16 firemen could have died if the building had collapsed while extricating Amin.
Rahangdale, however, clarified that the officials had gone near the building to assess the situation and to decide on a strategy, since the building had scaffolding and the fire was going out of control. However, he insisted that the four officials had not entered the building and were only near the entrance.

1948: The year in which MG Pradhan was appointed Chief Fire Officer, the first Indian to hold this position

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