Fireman Ravindra Valunje (41) was one of the first firemen to reach the Mont Blanc Apartments in Kemps Corner on Friday night. He managed to rescue one person before he was hit by a water hose pipe during the rescue attempt. “As we were gradually climbing floors with a hose pipe in hand in a bid to douse the blaze, a large explosion rocked the floor and balls of fire engulfed us,” said Valunje. He and five of his colleagues sustained burn injuries and blunt trauma as they braved the massive fire to conduct their rescue operations.
Valunje is recuperating at BMC-run Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central, his colleagues have been admitted to National Burns Centre at Airoli, Navi Mumbai after having sustained burns on hands, chest and legs.
“The fire had started on the 12th floor. Seven firemen from Byculla including me were the first to reach the spot at close to 7.45pm. Judging by the direction of the breeze at that time, we sensed that the fire will only spread to upper floors so we approached the building to douse the fire directly via climbing the staircases after we cut off power in the building. We had close to 4,500 litres of water and a long water hose pipe to help us. At the 11th floor, our movement was restricted because of fire on the floor above. Half way through, a huge explosion rocked the floor and sent parts of the hose pipe flying on us,” said.
Valunje feels that despite braving such an extreme situation, their efforts were not in vain as they managed to rescue a lone survivor in the flats where the fire broke out, before the explosion.
After sustaining grievous injuries, the firemen made their way down through the staircase and were rushed to hospital for first aid. In the meanwhile, fire brigades from Gowalia Tank unit took over the rescue operations.
Valunje has been serving in the Mumbai fire brigade since 1997. He lives with his wife, two children and aged parents at Kanjurmarg. When asked if Valunje’s family was petrified for his life as balls of fire erupted out of the floor and were hurled towards the firemen, he casually shrugs and replies, “It’s all in a day’s job. My family is used to the nature of my work now.”