Wadala blaze: Major disaster averted, says Fire chief

The inferno could have affected around 4 km of the surrounding area if the fire brigade had not taken control of the situation

Saturday’s fire, which started at a Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) pipeline in Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), Wadala, could have affected 3-4 km of the surrounding area due to wind velocity, had the fire brigade not taken control of the situation.

Foam jets of the Mumbai Fire Brigade, MbPT, BPCL and Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) were pressed into operation to bring the fire under control
Foam jets of the Mumbai Fire Brigade, MbPT, BPCL and Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) were pressed into operation to bring the fire under control

This revelation by acting fire brigade chief P S Rahangdale underlines how close the city came to a major disaster, now being termed as one of the biggest fires this year. Fortunately, no casualty was reported. A pipeline carrying petrol at HPCL in the MbPT area had caught fire on Saturday evening at 6.40 pm and a brigade call was given at 1.52 am on Sunday.

Petrol had leaked out from the 14-inch diameter pipeline located at the spot outside Castrol’s establishment at 9.30 am on Saturday, and the fire brigade immediately started foaming operations along with the MbPT. The petrol was leaking and flowing into a nullah near the company.

The fire spread to the premises of nearby BPCL (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited), after which a brigade call was given. “At 1.52 am (on Sunday), we gave a brigade call. What happens is, when the petroleum tanks are full, it’s easier for us to control the situation since there are no fumes.

But since these tanks were half-empty, large amount of fumes were generated at the top, which caused the volume to be virtually doubled. In such a condition, if there is a blast, there is a vapour-cloud explosion. Thus, the fire flames can travel up to 3-4 km in the wind.

And the velocity of the wind was towards the city,” informed Rahangdale. The flames could have spread to the surrounding areas of Wadala and could have also affected the vehicles travelling on the Eastern Freeway.

Critical operation
Three foam jets of the Mumbai Fire Brigade, and one from the MbPT was pressed into operation immediately. After the brigade call, during the ongoing firefighting operation, an additional three foam jets of the brigade, along with one jet each from the MbPT, BPCL and Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF), and two foam browsers were pressed into operation.

After 1-1/2 hours of critical operations, the spread of the fire was stopped and a major disaster was averted. Though the fire was in control by four sides at 7.17 am on Sunday, fire brigade officials have still not declared the fire completely doused, since pipeline repair is still going on.

About 25 kilolitres of foam were used for firefighting, as around 60 to 70 kilolitres of petrol were involved in the blaze. Repair work is in progress and firefighting equipment has been kept on stand-by. Since the concerned pipeline belongs to MbPT, a show-cause notice will be issued to the port by the BMC, enquiring about the maintenance and reasons for leakage of the pipeline.

Chairman speak
MbPT Chairman Ram Parmar said, “We check pipes regularly and always maintain the pipeline. Yesterday (Saturday), at 9 am, the leakage happened. MbPT workers were working on repairing the pipeline. After that, in the evening, a fire broke out. Now we will change the damaged pipeline. We do our job sincerely and regularly.”

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