by Upagupt Mohanty
When there’s an outbreak of fire, a p o i s o n o u s gas le a kage, a potential drowning incident or a life threatening road accident, or even a natural calamity…who’s your ‘go-to’ man ???
Always at the site of an unwelcome situation, ‘fire fighters’ are often accused of reaching late at the spot, by the irate and irrational mob that invariably gathers around a mishap location. But did anybody from the mob have the courage, desire or skill to jump in for help? Certainly not!
Fire fighters are like guarding angels who rush in to answer a distress call, irrespective of the time and place of the incident. The only difference is that in their endeavor to save the lives and property of others they risk their own lives, every time they are summoned.
It is extremely unfortunate that it’s not uncommon for these angels to get harmed in the line of duty. Have we ever acknowledged their selfless and courageous efforts?
Mr. B.B. Das, Chief Fire Officer (Odisha Fire Service) recounts a recent tragic incident where he lost one of his brave men in the line of duty .
The Chandrasekharpur Fire Station received a fire call message at 23:55 hours that a cabin shop at Infosys square, Bhubaneswar had caught fire. A crew led by Mr. Gopeswar Nayak, Leading Fire Man (LFM) rushed to the spot along with fellow Fireman, Mr. Patitapaban Samal and other junior team members. After reaching the spot, FireMan(FM) Samal rushed towards the dense smoke emanating from the cabin, to extinguish the fire, as he connected one delivery hose to the Motor Fire Engine. He had barely sprayed the water when a LPG cylinder inside the cabin shop burst violently. The explosion hit FM- Samal and he sustained major burns on his face, hands, chest and back. Though he was immediately rushed to the hospital, he succumbed to his injuries during the course of treatment. FM Samal is survived by his wife, mother and a 2 year old daughter, who were all dependent on him.
“Fireman Patitapaban Samal was an exceptional fireman and a good human being. After his untimely death, I strongly believe in the saying “whom the gods love, die young”.Senior fire officials, colleagues, servicemen and people from his village, have all mourned the death of FM Samal, who served people till his last breath. He just stepped in at the call of need even if it was not his shift or hour of work. He has left such an indelible mark that I have created a painting on him with the theme ‘An angel in disguise’ and it is still on display in front of my office. For me, FM Samal is an unsung hero, along with other fire fighters who have shown undeterred courage in saving lives and property from the engulfing flames” .
‘We Serve to Save’ is the motto of these firemen and its extremely unfortunate that their remuneration or facilities do not commensurate their efforts and the impact that they have on society. What inspires and motivates them is a calling from within and the teary eyed hugs of gratitude from the indebted survivors.
Even the families of these fire fighters deserve a salute for allowing the firemen to risk their lives and sacrificing their family time especially during a festival like Diwali where they need to be on high alert owing to the scores of fireworks related accidents.
“This incident happened on the day of Kartik Purnima in 2003 when I was posted in Vedvyas, Rourkela. I heard a cry of ‘Banchao Banchao!’ from the river front. Rajit Singh and his friend had got caught in the whirlpool of river Brahmani. Even without a life jacket, I jumped into the river and successfully rescued the victims alive. I was awarded a Gallantry Medal for carrying out my duty responsibly, which saved human lives. There was another rescue operation in the year 2008. I was then posted in Sambalpur. We received a call for a fire rescue in Lienza Hotel. On reaching the spot, I saw there was fire in the kitchen due to gas leakage and a person had got trapped. I immediately extinguished the fire and rescued the trapped victim first. But the leaking gas could have exploded into a major fire, so I caught hold of the leaking cylinder and was rushing out, when the cylinder reignited, burning me badly. As we are trained for such volatile operations, I was able to save myself.”
Police…Army…Shootouts… Wars… even gangster inspired stories has been frequently showcased on Indian screens, print and digital media but real life stories of fire fighters is yet to be appreciated. Gripping tales of heroism by fire fighters hardly make it to the front page of the daily newspapers, but they plunge into rescue operations on a call, fully aware that no situation is predictable and they are mostly unaware of the lurking danger. The day of a fire fighter could start with rescuing a life or recovering a body or just end with sacrificing his own life. We at Coffee Bytes pay homage to the contribution of these unsung heroes on International Fire Fighters’ Day which is celebrated on May 04, 2017. ❏