We will be able to douse the fire. It is not impossible. Be safe,” those were the last words Nitin Ivalekar (34) spoke to his colleague, fireman Dattaram Govind Munde (23), who joined the fire department six months ago, before Ivalekar went upto the 21st floor of Lotus Business Park, never to return, recalled Munde, from bed no 2 of Cooper hospital.
Nitin Ivalekar (below) often gave Dattaram Govind Munde tips on firefighting techniques
Narrating the sequence of events before he lost his senior colleague on Friday afternoon in the blaze in the Andheri high-rise, Munde said he will always remember Ivalekar’s last words. “Only, he could not return safe. He was like my mentor,” in a choked voice, Munde told sunday mid-day.
On a mission
A resident of Malvani, the 23-year-old had joined the fire department six months ago and was posted at Borivli fire station since then. On the fateful day, both Munde and Ivalekar were on the first shift and had reported to work at 7 am. Around 10.15 am, the fire in-charge at Borivli fire station alerted them about the call they had received from the fire control room and that they had been asked to rush towards Lotus Business Park.
After reaching the high-rise, they received a call on the walkie talkie asking them to bring a hosepipe for the fire crew inside the building. The duo wore their protective breathing apparatus and entered with the hosepipe.
“As we kept climbing the staircase, Nitin was explaining to me how he had taken part in a fire fighting operation on a 36th floor high-rise earlier and how they had controlled the fire from spreading. Also, he was explaining to me the various fire fighting techniques. As we reached the higher floors, the smoke started becoming thicker. But he kept saying ‘Hi aag aapan vijvu shakto, vijvu appan’ (We can douse this fire, we will),” said Munde.
The last few minutes
By this time, the fire had spread to the 19th and 21st floors as well, trapping the duo in the middle. “We were looking for an escape route. As Nitin and I had the breathing apparatus, we ventured into the smoke, looking for a safer space. Nitin ran towards the 21st floor and then he didn’t come back. We looked for him all over and finally, found him motionless. Even the breathing apparatus mask was up in flames. We brought him down through the staircase and took him to Cooper hospital in the fire brigade’s ambulance, but he was declared dead on arrival,” said Munde. The scene is still fresh in his mind. “I cannot forget what I saw. Nitin was alive and was confident of fighting the fire and the very next moment, he was trapped in the same fire. But his teachings will always remain fresh in my memory. I will forever think of him as my mentor,” Munde added.
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Ivalekar’s body was brought to Cooper postmortem centre at 7.35 pm on Friday, where an autopsy was performed. Post the autopsy, as per the request of the family, his mortal remains were kept in the mortuary until Saturday morning. According to the forensic surgeon who conducted the autopsy, the body had turned black and reddish due to extensive heat and burns. Also, the deceased had inhaled a lot of smoke. The cause of death was given as ‘death due to burn shock’. Meanwhile, the Amboli police have registered a case of accidental death under section 174 of Criminal Procedure Code.