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Saturday Night Crisis – Fire at a Garage !


28 Feb

Saturday nights are usually when we usually jam up at a friend’s place and crib about the week that went by, the infrastructure in the city, the economy of South Africa (not really) and other such stuff.

This Saturday was one such night. Having spent most of the evening in the usual chit chat, drinks and some delectable cuisine cooked by none other than Dinakar & Paul, our good friends and two of the finest cooks known to mankind, we were tired and slightly drunk as well.

We cut a Cake for our good friends and enjoyed a variety of liquors as well as some Champagne.

After wrapping up the party, we were headed home. There were two cars and I was in the first one sitting on the passenger side of the Car. Dinakar was driving. We were headed to the inner part of T.C Palya to drop Paul home. Dinakar was dead tired and was driving slowly. I was resting my head against the left window. As we were passing a garage, we noticed a few flames to our left. However, being in an inebriated state does have its disadvantages. I never realized the seriousness of the situation until Rajil, another friend driving the Car behind us gave us a call and told us to pull over. We did just that and got out of the vehicle. In the melee, Dinakar had parked the Car just 15 feet away from the flames which were now starting to get higher and higher. Once out on the road, we realized the gravity of the situation. Paul was quick to call the Fire Brigade and give them directions to the scene.

Minutes ticked by as we watched the flames gain momentum and were feeling highly debilitated at that point. The heat too was overwhelming. The flames had enveloped a Coconut tree which stood tall in the garage.

The garage was located right next to a medical shop & small dispensary. It was in the middle of a residential neighborhood. We noticed that the dispensary was open which meant that someone could’ve been possibly sleeping inside. Perhaps a security guard or an attendant. A couple of us started knocking the door vigorously as it was bolted from inside. Eventually, the confused and dazed attendant emerged and was flabbergasted to see the burgeoning fire within 10 feet of the dispensary. We yelled at him to switch off the main power switch and he finally managed to do so after a brief struggle in trying to locate the main switch.

As this was happening we stood on the main road waiting for the Fire Brigade. The Brigade had been in the firing line recently after the poor safety measures undertaken during a drill, resulting in the death of an innocent volunteer and then the Russell Market fire (the previous day) where they took an hour to arrive. Unexpectedly, as we were wondering what to do next, there was a massive explosion which sent plumes of smoke and cinders into the air. Little pieces of debris flew around us as we tried to gage what had happened. Was it a Gas cylinder? Was it something else? Who knew? We just realized that we were perilously close to the action and took several steps back. We were still shaken after the ‘blast’. It is at that point which one of us realized that Dinakar’s Car was dangerously close to the fire. I made a run for it, got into the vehicle and drove it to safety about 50 meters away from the scene. The noise from the blast had woken up half the neighborhood, which was clueless about the fire until then. Once they came out, we informed them that the Fire Brigade was on its way and they needn’t worry. Anxious faces started to emerge from the Balconies and Verandahs of nearby buildings.

After what seemed like an eternity, the Fire Brigade finally arrived. We breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that things should soon be under control. We even shared a couple of jokes and smiles as the Firefighters went about doing their bit. I got some time to whip out my phone and take a couple of videos. We were relaxed. After all, the professionals had arrived to take matters into their hands. Or so we thought. Little did we know that we were in for a surprise. The Firefighters didn’t take much time to get going. However, the fire hose they used was very similar to the high-powered gardening hoses we would find in a garden. The pressure at which water was being pumped was hopelessly inadequate. The Firefighters wore basic overalls with absolutely no protection against the heat or flames. Ironically, all they wore were water-proof Jackets. Not just that, the Firefighters attacked the fire from the outside of the building. They raised the hose high above their heads and aimed it at the direction of the fire in an attempt to douse the flames. Was it effective? Not really. We had already warned the Firefighters of the explosion earlier and they realized that there was a clear and present danger of further explosions.

This prompted them to change tactics and they moved inside the garage from the front gate. The driver of the fire Truck was struggling so much to position the vehicle in front of the gate that I felt like asking him to step down and give me the control of the wheel. Eventually he did manage to position the Truck close to the gate. Once the garage gate was opened all hell broke loose. The Firefighters found 15 folks sleeping blissfully inside with little or no knowledge of the fire. These guys were the garage workers, I assume. Once they had woken up, they drove out all the vehicles in a hurry to safer places. I even noticed a couple of them literally picking up Bikes and dragging them to safety. Our friend Dinakar, who was assisting the Firefighters (they needed help) ran inside and swiftly grabbed a Gas Cylinder, which was close to the inferno and brought it out to safety. That was a close call. A couple of minutes more and the scene could have looked quite different. Infact another maverick of a friend preferred to go close to the action and literally watched the flames around Gas cylinders being doused while he stood just a few feet away from the action.

There was no attempt by the Firefighters or the Cops who had arrived on the scene, to control access to the main garage. We walked in and out freely. Once inside, we could see the full extent of the carnage. A Van had been completely charred to bits and other stuff, Tin sheets and other flammable material were charred. Eventually, the fire was brought under control. Feeling proud that we had been good citizens and had done our job, we finally got into our Cars and drove out of there feeling relieved, but not without getting to the nearest Tea shop and having a hot cup of Tea. 🙂

Domain – Decorus

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