New Delhi: After nearly 18 hours of non-stop efforts, a fire at a rubber warehouse in south Delhi's Malviya Nagar, being described as the national capital's biggest in the last two decades, was finally doused on Wednesday morning. 65 fire engines worked overnight to try and contain the fire, and then, in the morning, an Indian Air Force helicopter dropped water on the fire from above.
- After nonstop efforts for nearly 18 hours Malviya Nagar fire doused
- Delhi fire service chief says he never asked for army helicopter
- First time Bambi ops were done in an urban situation: Defence statement
The Delhi Fire Service, however, says the fire had already been contained an hour before the helicopter arrived, and that it had never asked for the chopper to be deployed.
"It is a fact that the helicopter came, but it is also a fact that the Delhi Fire Service did not ask for the helicopter", GC Misra, Director of Delhi Fire Services, said on Wednesday evening.
Explaining why the fire service does not prefer helicopters in such a situation, Mr Misra said it turns out to be counter-productive. "What happens when a helicopter is brought in, the fire, which is smoldering, spreads due to fanning," he said.
"For such operations - building fires - helicopters are not used. The fire brigade was present, we were at a handshake distance from the fire. I don't see a technical justification that would compel me to demand a helicopter. We had fire engines, fire officials..." Mr Misra added.
He said the last time a helicopter was called in to fight a fire was in 1983 when a fire had broken out at the 14-storey Gopala Tower in Delhi's Rajendra Place.
The decision to use a chopper to spray water on the burning warehouse was taken by the Municipal Corporations of Delhi, District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), and the police, Deputy Commissioner of Police, South, Romil Baaniya said.
The Defence Ministry said the Air Force had received the request for help around midnight. A helicopter filled water from the Yamuna reservoir and dropped it over the site, three times. Nearly 8,000 litres of water was dropped by the helicopter.
"This was the first time the Bambi ops was done in an urban situation wherein the nitty gritties of drop are very precise owing to high rises around and chances of collateral damage," the Defence Ministry statement said.
The fire had started around 5 pm on Tuesday in the warehouse at Khirki Extension, a crowded residential part of Malviya Nagar. As many as 65 fire engines were sent and firemen were at work all night to stop the "highest category" blaze from spreading to neighbouring buildings, including a school. Thick black smoke rising from the fire was visible from much of south Delhi.
The police believe a truck loaded with rubber material parked near the warehouse caught fire, which spread in no time because of strong winds last night. Plastic and raw material stored in the factory fuelled the fire, said an official.