The two firemen who died fighting the blaze at Kalbadevi on Saturday had won awards for their bravery in rescuing people from the Taj Mahal Hotel during the 26/11 terror siege. On Saturday too, assistant divisional officer SW Rane and station officer MN Desai rushed into the building, which was on fire, but were buried when it collapsed.
During the 26/11 siege, the two were part of a 120-strong team of the Mumbai Fire Brigade that had braved bullets and grenades to pull people out from the hotel.
On Sunday, 100 firemen and officers paid guard of honour to the two heroes as they were laid to rest. As their families struggled to cope — Desai’s wife said she had no idea how she would bring up her children now — the condition of two other officers who suffered serious burns continued to be critical. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident.
A seven-member committee is to submit a report in three weeks.
Chief fire officer Sunil Nesarikar and deputy fire officer Sudhir Amin, are in a critical condition at the National Burns Centre (NBC) in Airoli. They underwent a two-hour surgery for re-establishing the blood supply, said a doctor. While Nesarikar has sustained 50% burns and inhalation injuries to lungs, Amin suffered 90% burns.
“Amin’s condition is delicate and it is difficult to predict how it will turn out for him. We performed surgeries on both the officers, but they will need at least five to six more operations,” said Dr Sunil Keswani, chief of NBC.
Saturday’s incident has hit the morale of the fire brigade. Many firemen blamed the increasing number of deaths during rescue operations on illegal structures and the flouting of the rules.
Some said Nesarikar, who was a part of the team which controlled the fire at Lotus Business Park, Andheri, in July 2014, rushed inside the building, despite being warned that it was unsafe.
“Officers told him that the building was under renovation and may collapse. But as he entered the building, many juniors followed him,” said a firemen, requesting anonymity.
Amin, who was leading before he chief fire officer arrived, had asked the team to control the fire from outside.
In July, last year, a fire at Lotus Business Park claimed the life of 35-year-old Nitin Ivalekar. The department was heavily criticised for miscommunication and lack of supervision in the incident.
Earlier this year, four firemen were left injured as they tried to control the fire in a congested chawl, which lacked basic fire-fighting equipment.