Fire officer complains: Navy didn’t give us details

After a six-hour operation to douse the INS Sindhurakshak fire,the Mumbai Fire Brigade said Wednesday it would have been better placed to save lives if the Navy had provided more information.

Written by Sharvari Patwa | Mumbai | Published:August 15, 2013 4:44 am

After a six-hour operation to douse the INS Sindhurakshak fire,the Mumbai Fire Brigade said Wednesday it would have been better placed to save lives if the Navy had provided more information.

“We carried out our fire-fighting operations routinely and tried our best to minimise loss of life and property. The Navy did not give us detailed information on how many people were trapped inside. They just asked us to douse the fire. Perhaps if we were given full information,we could have planned our operation in such a way that more lives could have been saved,” said Chief Fire Officer Suhas Joshi.

Sixteen fire engines and 10 water tankers were sent to the Naval dockyard on Tuesday night. Officials said the fire engines found it difficult to navigate their way quickly to the spot due to the strict security clearances. “We had no idea about the interiors of a submarine or even its basic structure,which could have helped us contain the flames more effectively. Our experience is limited to fire-fighting in highrises or huge factories,” said an official.

Addressing a press conference,Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D K Joshi said,“The Naval fire brigade has substantial capacity and is capable of handling such a fire. The fire engines from the Mumbai Fire Brigade were kept on stand-by and were allowed in later,after seeing the extent of the fire.”

But P S Rahangdale,Deputy Chief Fire Officer of the Mumbai Fire Brigade,said: “The Naval fire-fighting unit is sufficient for its base here in case of minor mishaps. You cannot expect the Navy to maintain an entire force similar to the fire-fighting strength needed for a city like Mumbai — it obviously has its limitations.”

Recalling that a surface warship,INS Vindhyagiri,had caught fire at the Naval dockyard in 2011,Fire Brigade officials noted that not much had been done to improve the fire-fighting mechanism in the area since then.

While the jetty at the Naval dockyard is equipped with a basic water hydrant system with a capacity of just 1,100 litres of water per minute,an efficient dousing mechanism needs a water monitor or foam tower with a capacity of about 10,000 litres of water per minute.

“These water monitors or foam towers which can be mounted on a structure on the jetty have a range of over 100 metres compared to a fire engine which has a mobility of about 50 metres and can only pump about 2,000 litres of water per minute,” explained an official,adding that the system has been installed at the Bombay Port Trust jetty.

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