For first time, Mumbai to witness charge of the Fire Brigade

Apr 17, 2015, 07:21 IST | Sachin Unhalekar

For the first time in Mumbai, the fire brigade will hold a rally during its Fire Safety Week. It will be held on Sunday (April 19) from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) headquarters near CST to Five Gardens.

The Fire Brigade will hold a rally during the ongoing safety week. The rally will also include this fire van, which was the only one  to have survived the 1944 Bombay docks explosion
The Fire Brigade will hold a rally during the ongoing safety week. The rally will also include this fire van, which was the only one  to have survived the 1944 Bombay docks explosion

On April 14, 1944, a blast on a ship called S S Fort Stikine in Victoria Docks resulted in the death of 66 fire brigade officials. Since then, the Mumbai fire brigade observes a Fire Safety Week every year between April 14 and 20 as per the directives of the Union Home Ministry.

The rally aims to reach out to people and make them aware of the brigade’s work. It will consist of a total of 20 fire vans, including rescue vans, fire engines, control post vans and ladder machine vans and will have 150 firemen marching,” said Sunil Nesrikar, chief fire officer.

Pamphlets and stickers for creating awareness will also be distributed in the rally. The fire officials want to attract children and create awareness amongst them. “Besides the rally, street plays will be performed to inform people of measures to be taken to prevent a fire-related mishap in their house. The plays will be organised by firemen,” Nesrikar said.

The only vehicle which survived the SS Fort Stikine blast, a fire van from 1937 with a turn table ladder, will lead the rally. It will be flagged off by Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte and Mayor Snehal Ambekar. The rally, which will start at 9.30 am from BMC headquarters, will go through Mata Ramabai Ambedkar Road towards Crawford market.

It will then turn towards Princess Street and go via Lamington Road, Mirza Ghalib road before turning at Rani Baug. It will then move towards Dadar fire station, Dadar TT and culminate at Five Gardens at 1.30 pm.

The explosion
The Bombay Explosion (or Bombay Docks Explosion) occurred on April 14, 1944, in the Victoria Dock when the freighter SS Fort Stikine carrying a mixed cargo of cotton bales, gold, and ammunition including around 1,400 tons of explosives, caught fire and was destroyed in two giant blasts.

The number of lives lost in the explosions is estimated at more than 800, although some estimates put the figure around 1,300. The first explosion cut the ship into two parts. The shower of burning material set fire to slums in the area. Around two square miles were set ablaze in an 800-m area around the ship.

Eleven neighbouring vessels had been sunk or were sinking, and the emergency personnel at the site suffered heavy losses. Attempts to fight the fire were dealt a further blow when a second explosion took place. Burning cotton bales fell from the sky on docked ships, on the dock yard, and on slum areas outside the harbour.

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