The fire within us: International Firefighters’ Day special
On the occasion of International Firefighters’ Day, we took these brave firefighters to meet individuals they had rescued years ago, risking their own lives. It was a reunion like no other!Updated: May 04, 2019, 12:34 IST
Finding yourself trapped in a burning building is one of the most harrowing experiences in a person’s life. There’s darkness and dense smoke everywhere, you see shadows racing around in panic, the awful smell of burning plastic and metals fills up your nostrils, and despairing, incomprehensible screams warn you that you are fast running out of time. Soon you find the fire creeping close to you, and you start feeling your skin burning. You recollect the faces that you have loved, and a numbing ache sets into your heart. You know the end has come. And in that moment of anguish, you suddenly see a hand reaching out to you. A blurred figure in a fire suit and helmet emerges from the smoke and struggles to pull you out of death’s trap. You are carried to safety. You are thankful that you have survived. But you never get to know who risked his life to make sure that you live, you never find out what was your saviour’s name, how did he look like. All you know is that he was a firefighter, who risked his life to save you. He stayed true to his duty. For his dharma is to protect and he won’t waver even in the face of death. What if after several years, you get an opportunity to meet the firefighter and thank him in person? On the occasion of International Firefighters’ Day, we decided to unite these rescuees, who were trapped in fires, with their rescuers several years after the incidents. We listed a few incidents of fire outbreaks in the city in the last few years and identified the teams that carried out those rescue operations. With the help of the firefighters, we traced the individuals who they had successfully rescued from the deadliest of fires. It didn’t seem possible in the beginning, as people had shifted cities, changed jobs, or moved to new localities in the last few years. But, we were luckily able to connect to a few individuals who were rescued by these firemen. It was a highly emotional moment as the rescuers met their rescuees after years. Tears flowed as they shook hands, and hugged each other. We saw a reunion like no other!
When I met my hero
In May 2015, a panting, exhausted man came running to the Delhi Fire Service HQ, Barakhamba. He informed the firemen that the staircase of Oriental Bank of Commerce, Connaught Place was burning due to a short circuit and the trapped employees were trying to call the fire station. “He was a bank employee, who had somehow managed to escape. He told us that the phone lines were clogged due to multiple calls. He returned to the building with us and helped in the rescue operation. We could not see his face properly,” firefighter Amit Kumar told us. We found out that this man was Dhananjay Kumar and took him to meet Amit Kumar, who was a part of the rescue team that had saved the bank employees that day. “There were no casualties despite the intense fire. I am so grateful to you. You and your team saved each one of us,” Dhananjay was overwhelmed with emotions as he spoke to Kumar. The firefighter told him he was no less a hero. “It was due to your presence of mind that we could save your colleagues,” he said as he took him on a tour of the fire station. The two recalled how they had struggled together to save so many. They never thought they would meet each other again, but then who can predict life?
Sewa hai dharam humara
In July 2017, Sajjan Kumar Sharma, a fire security officer in NDMC was trying to extinguish a ghastly fire that broke out in Lok Nayak Bhawan from where NDMC operates. Sharma found himself stuck as the room filled up with black smoke. Sharma and his men started choking as the smoke engulfed the entire floor. That’s when station officer, Barakhamba, Rajesh Shukla came as his saviour. Shukla climbed on a hydraulic platform (a mounted elevation of stairs) and took out Sharma and his team through one of the windows in the office. He burnt his hands and face, but successfully pulled out all the five men stuck inside. “I can’t forget that day...I was fighting fire and I got badly trapped. A door got jammed and blocked the exit, filling the entire place with thick smoke. Had it not been Shukla, we wouldn’t have been alive today,” said Sharma, who was reunited with Shukla after two years. “We are never able to see the people we save. This is so heartwarming to sit down and chat with them,” said an emotional Shukla. The two climbed the hydraulic platform once again and chatted about the most challenging rescues they have done. The two also sang the firefighters anthem that reminds them of their dharma that is saving lives, irrespective of cast, creed, religion — Yeh jaati dharam ke bhed bhav ko hum kabhi samajh na pate. Manavta ke rakhwale, sewa hai dharam humara.
A miracle all over again
As Jatinder Arora saw flames coming out of his cosmetic factory in Jhandewalan, he prayed for a miracle that could save the lives of female workers trapped inside. The women were about to jump from the washroom when station officer, Rani Jhansi Road, Avtar Singh reached. Avtar made sure that all the women who were stuck in the fire, waiting for death, were saved. Ever since that fateful day, there was one regret that Arora carried in his heart — not getting a chance to thank Avtar Singh. When we united the two after three years, the first words that came that came out of Arora’s mouth were, “Main aapko kaise bhool sakta hoon? Agar aap nahi hote toh kuch nahi bachta”. However, Singh couldn’t have saved these women without the help of his colleague Rajesh Shukla. “Shukla rushed in like a man on a mission, burnt his hands badly in the process but managed to safely guide the women from the washroom to the ladder,” recalls Singh. When Singh and Shukla visited the factory to meet the workers, Arora described the reunion as a miracle he was witnessing all over again.
The best reward ever
In April 2017, a fire broke out at an electrical panel of a rehabilitation centre for specially abled children in Uttar Pradesh. Firefighters Joginder Singh and Jatinder Singh were a part of the team that picked up 80 children and carried them to safety. We took Joginder and Jatinder to visit the centre after two years. They recalled the incident as they walked into the school. “The smoke was very dense. They were were specially-abled kids so we had to be very careful. We gently carried them to the roofs of adjacent buildings, gave them masks to wear and within 30 minutes, they were all safe,” said Jatinder. The firefighters met some of the kids they had rescued two years back, played with them and gave them chocolates. “This is the most beautiful reward we could have got..to meet these children again. We too have children back home. It was one of our most satisfying rescues. The biggest satisfaction was that all children came out safe,” said Jatinder.
Special thanks: Studio 1469 and Raw Pressery Juices for gifting hampers to the firemen that made the reunion sweeter.