KARACHI: At least five firefighters were injured while attempting to douse a third-degree fire that erupted at a foam manufacturing factory in Karachi’s SITE area on Thursday morning. The fire was finally brought under control after 10 hours of frantic efforts, involving at least 19 fire brigades.
The fire broke out at 8am when there was no staff at the factory premises were empty save a watchman, who informed the fire department at around 8:25am. On receiving the information, two fire tenders were immediately dispatched to the site, followed by more vehicles when the personnel in the former two realised the scope of the task at hand.
According to the factory management, the fire broke out in the warehouse located on the ground floor of the multi-storey building and reached the upper floors of the one-acre complex in no time. “We have no idea about the cause of the fire,” said one official from the management. “But the fire has completely damaged goods worth millions of rupees due to the lack of facilities of the fire brigade department.”
Witnesses said the firefighters faced several problems in their attempts to control the blaze. “Only two fire tenders were available at the SITE fire station,” explained Amjad Khan, one of the first firefighters at the scene. “Three other fire tenders and a water bowser are out of order at the station,” he said, adding that they faced severe problems due to the shortage of water and other resources.
This time, the firefighters had to call in water tankers run by private contractors to douse the fire. “We don’t even get some money for the diesel to run our vehicles,” complained another firefighter, who requested not to be named. “We had to borrow money from the factory management to get fuel for the vehicles as well as chemical foam to douse the fire,” he added.
A few hours into the effort, the firefighters believed they had managed to bring the blaze under control, only for it to erupt again. This time, a section of the building collapsed due to the intensity of the second blaze as explosions rang inside the facility. “Nearly 50% of the building was razed to the ground by the inferno,” said Chief Fire Officer Wajahat Ahmed. “The remaining part of the building will also likely collapse.”
A total of 16 fire tenders from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, two from Pakistan Navy and one from the Karachi Port Trust, besides a snorkel and a water bowser, were involved in the efforts to bring the fire under control.
Seeing the intensity of the fire, the personnel worked out a strategy to prevent it from reaching the neighbouring establishments. “We started dousing the fire from the sides of the factory in order to save the nearby factories,” explained another firefighter, Khalid Ali. “Had we not done so, the fire would have definitely destroyed the nearby structures.”
For their part, the firefighters alleged that the factory’s management was unwilling to cooperate with them, adding that the operation also faced severe hurdles as they had not been provided with the chemical foam used to extinguish the fire.
No loss of life was reported in the incident, but at least five firefighters sustained injuries. The injured were identified as Naveed, Liaquat Ali, Nasir, Saeed and Ali. They were taken to a nearby hospital from where they were later released after being given first aid.
Asad Nisar, a former chairman of SITE Associations expressed strong sentiments regarding the incident. “This is all because of the lack of resources at the fire department,” he said. “The government as well as the fire brigade department has been informed multiple times to take the matter seriously. However, they never take our warnings seriously, due to which businessmen here face losses worth millions of rupees.”
Meanwhile, the fire department officials could not ascertain the cause of the fire, saying it was likely a short circuit.