National Fire Service Day on April 14 is a day that is observed every year to pay homage to the incredible commitment and sacrifice by the 71 Fire Service personnel during an unfortunate mishap in 1944 on this day.
An incident that occurred at freighter SS Fort Stikine at the Victoria Dock in the Bombay Port on that fateful day, witnessed sacrifices made by the 71 Fire Service personnel in their bid to save lives, and assets, selflessly while fighting the fire spread from the explosion.
It so happened that the freighter SS Fort Stikine that was carrying a miscellaneous cargo of cotton bales, gold, ammunition consisting of almost 1400 tons of explosives, caught fire; which was followed by 2 gigantic blasts. The explosion’s intensity was so much that sensors recorded that the ground shook at Shimla, in a city which was over 1700 km away from the site of the blast. Speaking of the impact, it was reported that the blast not only split the ship into 2 halves, but broke windows in the 12 km radius. It was heard at a distance of 80 km.
This huge explosion devastated the freighter, along with the ships present in the vicinity. The fire engulfed the entire surrounding area, killed around 800- 1300 people and caused nearly 11 vessels to sink near the site.
At around 2 pm in the afternoon, which was before the huge second explosion at 4.34 pm, there was a fire onboard alert around No.2 hold. None of the people on the freighter including the crew, dockside fire teams and fire boats could put out the fire with even 900 tons of water.
Owing to the boiling hot water due to the tremendous heat in the ship, members were asked to abandon the ship at 3.50 pm. But within 16 minutes of the evacuation process, the first blast happened. The fire cotton bales, debris scattered all around, and set the slums and dock yards outside the port on fire, too.
The ravaging fire burnt down some of the highly developed and economically viable areas of Bombay.
Keeping the very grim incident in mind, every year 14 April commemorates the exemplary courage and valour exhibited by fire fighters during the rescue operations.
Industries organize training, drills and rehearsals to demonstrate the preparedness to fight fire emergencies.
The immense importance of fire safety and prevention methods in both households and public organizations are taken into account and awareness is spread as agenda.