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Fire & Emergency Services, Govt. Of West Bengal

Fire Service Week

4 April is known as National Fire Service Day in INDIA

In the mid-afternoon around 14:00, the crew were alerted to a fire onboard burning somewhere in the No. 2 hold. The crew, dockside fire teams and fireboats were not unable to extinguish the conflagration, despite pumping over 900 tons of water into the ship, nor were they able to find the source due to the dense smoke. The water was boiling all over the ship, due to heat generated by the fire.
At 15:50 the order to abandon ship was given, and sixteen minutes later there was a great explosion, cutting the ship in two and breaking windows over 12 km (7.5 mi) away. The two explosions were powerful enough to be recorded by seismographs at the Colaba Observatory in the city. Sensors recorded that the earth trembled at Shimla, a city located at a distance of over 1700 km. The shower of burning material set fire to slums in the area. Around two square miles were set ablaze in an 800 m (870 yd) arc around the ship. Eleven neighboring vessels had been sunk or were sinking, and the emergency personnel at the site suffered heavy losses. Attempts to fight the fire were dealt a further blow when a second explosion from the ship swept the area at 16:34. Burning cotton bales fell from the sky on docked ships, on the dock yard, and on slum areas outside the harbor. The sound of explosions was heard as far as 50 mi (80 km) away. Some of the most developed and economically important parts of Bombay were wiped out because of the blast and resulting fire. It took three days to bring the fire under control, and later, 8,000 men toiled for seven months to remove around 500,000 tons of debris and bring the docks back into action. The official death toll was 740, including 476 military personnel, with around 1,800 people injured; unofficial tallies run much higher. The occupants of the slums were largely unregistered. In total, twenty-seven other vessels were sunk or damaged in both Victoria dock and the neighboring Prince's Dock. The inquiry into the explosion identified the cotton bales as probably being the seat of the fire. It was critical of several errors: storing the cotton below the munitions, not displaying the red flag required to indicate a dangerous cargo on board, delaying unloading the explosives, not using steam injectors to contain the fire and a delay in alerting the local fire brigade.
Many families lost all their belongings and were left with just the clothes on their back. Thousands became destitute. It was estimated that about 6,000 firms were affected and 50,000 lost their jobs.The government took full responsibility for the disaster and monetary compensation was paid to citizens who made a claim for loss or damage to property. During normal dredging operations carried out periodically to maintain the depth of the docking bays, many intact gold bars have been found over time – some as late as February 2011 – and they have since been returned to the government. A live shell weighing 45kg (100 lb) was also found in October 2011.The Mumbai Fire Brigade's headquarters at Byculla has a memorial built in the memory of the numerous fire fighters who died. National Fire Safety Week is observed across India from 14 to 21 April in memory of the 66 firemen who died in this explosion.
The total number of lives lost in the explosion is estimated at more than 800, although some estimates put the figure around 1,300. More than 500 civilians lost their lives, many of them residing in adjoining slum areas, but as it was wartime, information about the full extent of the damage was partially censored. The results of the explosion are summarized as follows:


  • 231 people killed were attached to various dock services including fire brigade and dock employees.
  • Of the above figure, 66 firemen were killed
  • More than 500 civilians were killed
  • Some estimates put total deaths up to 1300
  • More than 2500 were injured, including civilians
  • 13 ships were loss and some other ships heavily or partially damaged
  • Out of above, three Royal Indian Navy ships lost
  • 31 wooden crates, each containing four gold bars, each gold bar weighing 800 Troy ounces or almost 25 kg. (almost all since recovered)
  • More than 50,000 tones of shipping destroyed and another 50,000 tons of shipping damaged
  • Loss of more than 50,000 tons of food grains, including rice, gave rise to black marketing of food grains afterwards.

To commemorate the gallant firemen who sacrificed their lives while combating fire disasters and to give due to recognition to fire services, as also to make the public aware of the necessity of minimizing losses from fire which have been mounting over the years, the Govt. of India declared 14th April as Fire Service Day and later on 14th to 20th April as Fire Service Week to be observed nation-wide every year.
A commemoration parade is held in which the names of all firemen who laid down their lives in the cause of duty is read out and wreaths are laid at the memorial column.


The motto of Fire Services asserts "WE SERVE TO SAVE." A translated idea of original motto in Sanskrit that is "TRANAY SEVA MAHE." Based on this motto there are three priority wise objective concepts.
(A) Primary Objective: SAVING LIFE .
(B) Secondary Objective: SAVE National and Public PROPERTY.
(C) Tertiary Objective: Salvage and Preservation.

(A) Primary Objective: SAVING LIFE.

This is the most essential part of Fire Service, which requires personnel to be well trained. In case of fire the SMOKE evolving from fire that is the main culprit for taking toll of life contrary to the fire itself. It is the SMOKE that kills first by asphyxiating. Fire Service personnel are vigorously trained to withstand HOT and HUMID conditions full of SMOKE as found in fire fighting situations and to search for casualties by following proper SEARCH PROCEDURE methods. Modern technology has given products like PVC, FOAM textiles and furnishings that evolve noxious smoke, which have toxic effect. They are a boon for human comforts but if catch fire they prove as instant killers. Apart from Fire Service there are disasters, building collapse, drowning rescues etc that require immediate life saving.

(B) Secondary Objective: SAVE National and Public PROPERTY.

Fire and Smoke damage and destroy immense National and Public property. In order to check this loss Fire Service has to keep abreast of latest technological developments in fire-fighting so as to curb and check this damage. There are different wings and training programs teaching practical fireman-ship for mitigating fire loss. West Bengal Fire & Emergency Services takes care to extinguish fire at its seat such that property does not get spoiled or damaged because of water used by the Fire Service for fire fighting.

(C) Tertiary Objective: Salvage or preservation

Humanitarian services and salvage services. Services like Ambulance service; offering First Aid helping humans’ and animals in distress to safety are provided by Uttar Pradesh Fire Services. At the fire scene a wing is busy in preserving property from fire, smoke and water due to firefighting. They remove un-burnt property away from fire, provide drainage arrangements and do not allow water logging on floors, ventilate etc.