It took six hours, 17 fire engines, eight jumbo tankers, three ambulances, two rescue vans and one breathing apparatus van for the fire brigade team to douse the fire at the five-storey building, Gokul Nivas, in the congested Kalbadevi area on Saturday.
While two firemen — assistant divisional officer Sanjay Rane and station officer MN Desai — were found dead under the debris, five people, including two fire officers, got injured.
Four floors of the 50-year-old building — which residents claimed was undergoing renovation — housed cloth units, while the fifth floor was residential.
According to the residents, the fire broke out at the electricity meter room on the ground floor around 4.30pm. With the stock of cloth at the shops, the fire spread quickly. A cylinder blast during the fire-fighting process led to a major blaze, after which earth-movers had to be called
Unable to contain the blaze by 7.15pm, the fire brigade team called for engines from all fire stations across the city.
“The fire engines got delayed because of the narrow lanes and heavy traffic. The wooden props for the structure and the stock of cloth stored in the godowns aggravated the fire,” said an eyewitness.
As the structure became heavy with constant sprinkling of water, it collapsed at 8.20pm, after which the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was called to the spot. Alok Awasthi, chief commandant, NDRF, said, “We had sent a team of 37 to carry out the search and rescue operation.”
As a precautionary measure, at least five buildings in the vicinity were evacuated. A neighbouring building, too, caught fire during the operation around 9pm, but it was doused in time.
A worker at the Doshi Sarees, a wholesale garment store, on the first floor of the building, said, “As it is the wedding season, we were busy. Suddenly we heard people screaming.”
“Soon after the fire broke out, there was chaos in the area. Everyone started
running towards the Marine Lines station,” said Ganesh Pawar, a local.
While deputy chief fire officer SG Amin suffered 80% burns, fire brigade chief Sunil Nesrikar suffered 50% burns. They are being treated at the National Burns Centre at Airoli in Navi Mumbai.
Dr S Keswani, director, National Burns Centre, said, “He [Nesrikar] has sustained 50% burns on his head, neck and face area. We suspect he has suffered inhalation burns too.”
Mayor Snehal Ambekar, who reached the spot, said, “Our force tried its best.”
In another incident, a 12-storey structure, Padmavati Heights at Vile Parle (East), caught fire on Saturday morning. Although two floors were gutted in the incident, no injuries were reported.