At 10 pm on Wednesday, 56-year-old Delhi Police Assistant Sub-Inspector Babu Ram had a routine conversation with his son Amit Balyan (28), a fire operator with the Delhi Fire Services (DFS). Roughly 12 hours later, he received a call that Amit had been trapped under debris while dousing a blaze at a factory that produced inverter batteries.
Ram rushed to outer Delhi’s Peeragarhi, and hovered outside the factory for the next four hours as Amit’s colleagues desperately tried to rescue him and 17 other firefighters trapped inside.
His son was the last to be pulled out, at 3 pm, but Ram held on to hope that he would make it. That hope was extinguished minutes later, when doctors at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute declared Amit dead on arrival.
“When I first received the call in the morning, I didn’t tell my wife and family about it. I thought he would have sustained minor injuries. When I reached Peeragarhi, there were over 30 fire tenders and my son was under the debris. Firemen were running with ladders and safety equipment; each time they pulled out a man from the building, I thought it was my son. When they finally found him at 3 pm, he was unconscious, with blood on his head and nose.”
Amit, who would have turned 29 later this month, is the first DFS firefighter to die on the job since February 2017, when three firemen died trying to douse a blaze at a Vikaspuri eatery. According to officials, a part of the Mundka building collapsed as Amit and others were battling the blaze, trapping them underneath.
“Amit was inducted into the DFS last year and worked at Kirti Nagar fire station. He joined training in December 2018 and worked as a fire operator,” said DFS director Atul Garg. He said Amit was part of the rescue team that pulled out over 60 men from last month’s factory blaze in Anaj Mandi, which left 46 people dead.
Amit and his family hail from UP’s Muzaffarnagar. In February 2019, three months after joining the Fire Safety Management Academy in the capital, he got married. His wife, Shivani, is a constable with Ghaziabad police.
Amit’s friend Anand (25) said he “always wanted to join the police or fire services”. “He pursued his Bachelor’s degree in Arts from Meerut and had been preparing for police and other exams ever since. He was elated on being posted in Delhi,” he said.
Ram said his son waited four years to be inducted into the DFS. “Amit passed the entrance test for railway and police posts, but he waited for results of fire services,” he said.