Mumbai fire fighters: The unsung heroes of 26/11 victory

Bravehearts from Mumbai`s fire brigade, who battled not only fire but gunfire too during the the 26/11 attacks to save hundreds of lives, are yet to receive their due.

Mumbai: Bravehearts from Mumbai`s fire
brigade, who battled not only fire but gunfire too during the
the 26/11 attacks to save hundreds of lives, are yet to
receive their due.

With just a few days left for the first anniversary
of the terror assault, one of the most audacious in recent
memory, these firemen are still to receive the gallantry award
announced by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai

If the images of Hotel Taj with its iconic dome
enveloped in fire and smoke are permanently etched in the
nation`s collective memory, so are those of the fire fighters
toiling for three long days putting out the blaze at multiple
terror locations and rescuing the hostages.

Rubbing shoulders with the elite NSG commandos were
the over 1,200 firemen, all unarmed, risking their lives while
fighting the raging flames triggered by the terrorists holed
up at Hotel Taj, the Trident and Nariman House during the
terror siege.

"I am proud of my men who showed exemplary courage
during the attacks. They not only put out the blaze but saved
over 400 people from the jaws of death risking their lives,"
Chief Fire Officer, Uday Tatkare said.

"For a rescue operation of such gigantic proportions,
Mumbai Fire Brigade then had only six Ariel Ladder Platforms
(ALP) and just two bullet-proof jackets, but loads of
courage," Tatkare said.

On November 26 last year just when the nation was
preparing to go to sleep, the might of one of country`s best
of security apparatus was put to test.

Spraying water at the blazing landmark hotels and
Nariman House, sometimes ducking a barrage of gunfire and
grenades, these unarmed men put their best foot forward.

A year later, their department too seems to be
following in their footsteps.

"Last year`s terror attack has taught us a lot. We
have taken several steps to improve our battle readiness,"
said Tatkare.

"Besides procuring latest equipment and undertaking
capacity building, we are conducting seminars and training
programmes for the firemen on a regular basis," he said.

"Co-ordination among various agencies like Police,
Railways, BEST, MCGM and others too has gone up," he added.

In May this year, BMC Standing Committee cleared an Rs
30 crore proposal for procuring new fire resistant uniforms
and equipment for the 2,300 firemen.

"We have asked for latest equipment like remote-controlled monitors, ground monitors and 100 bulletproof jackets among other things. If we had the latest equipment during 26/11 our job would have been a little
easier," Tatkare said.

All the praise for their remarkable efforts notwithstanding, the promise of honouring them remains unfulfilled.

"We acknowledge the efforts put in by the firemen and hence the MCGM decided to felicitate them by presenting them gallantry awards. The process of preparing the final list of awardees is in the pipeline," Additional Municipal Commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar told reporters.

The initial list prepared by MCGM was withheld after the Fire Brigade Union and Mahapalika Karmachari Union complained of favouritism and alleged names of several firemen involved in the action were missing. Now, the process to prepare a second list is on.

Almost a year since the attacks, it remains to be seen when these bravehearts would be honoured or will the fire of discontent burn inside them long after they extinguished the blaze triggered by the terrorists that threatened to reduce to ashes Mumbai`s landmarks.

Bureau Report