Sanjay Rane, station master at Indira Dock fire station, still can’t describe what force drove him to rush towards the Taj hotel to rescue people on the first night of the terror attack, oblivious to the danger around.
For the Mumbai Fire Brigade, the 26/11 siege redefined firefighting operations. When the control room of the Indira Dock fire station (which is five minutes from CST) received an emergency call at around 10.30pm on November 26, 2008, Rane, had no idea what awaited him. Rane was part of the rescue operations at CST and then at the Taj hotel. At CST, more than 100 people were rushed by the fire brigade to nearby hospitals for medical aid.
“Even before the operations at CST were ending, we received a second emergency call at around 1.15 am. Fire engines had to be rushed to the Taj,” said Rane.
The 45-year-old, who has been in the fire brigade for 20 years, said no modus operandi was worked out. “We had orders to remain on standby on the terrace of the Salvation Army building, which faces the Taj at its southern side. But around 3am, we saw a man jump from the third floor,” said Rane.
That was when the chief fire officer decided that the fire brigade would not wait for orders from the police. Hydraulic ladders of around 20 fire engines were used to rescue people. Around 400 people trapped at the Taj were rescued by the fire brigade.
“The police were alert. They could counter-attack. We saved lives bare-chested without any weapons or bullet proof jackets. I can’t think back and assess my own actions from that night. I don’t know what force drove me. We were not mentally prepared for such an incident. But we did it. By god’s grace, there were no casualties in the fire brigade,” said Rane.
Though the trauma of 26/11 has not quite subsided from the minds of his wife and two children, after the recognition he received, he said his family is proud of his profession.