The 14th of April

In memory of the 66 firemen who laid down their lives, 14th of April each year is celebrated, all over the country as Fire Service Day. A commemoration parade is held in which the names of all firemen who laid down their lives in the cause of duty are read out and wreaths are laid at the memorial column. There was a terrible explosion on 14th April 1944 at Mumbai in a ship called “SS Port Stikins” which was berthed at No.1 Victoria Dock.. The ship was stocked with a huge cargo of explosives. There was nearly 1200 tons of explosives, cotton bales and oil drums. The destruction caused by the explosion was massive. Prince’s Dock and Victoria Dock which are two of the three principal docks were fully ablaze with drifting ships. The approach channels to the docks were obstructed with many things. Besides the docks, several buildings on the shore were completely shattered. There was widespread devastation to the roads and rail network. Fire was continuously raging caused by incendiary materials flying off from the burning ship. There was a huge loss of life and property. In all 231 personnel belonging to the various departments including 66 belonging to the Bombay Fire Brigade, were either killed or missing. 476 personnel are reported to have been injured. The explosion was so massive that a ship berthed in an adjacent dock, 400 feet long and weighing 4000 tons was lifted clear to a height of 50 feet and dropped on land. All the buildings in the Port Trust were on fire. An area of about 100 acres was completely burnt. Bulk grain stores continued to burn and smoulder for four months. There was so much debris that it took three months to clear the same. The authorities decided to prevent further damage to Mumbai City by creating a ‘Fire Lane’ by dynamiting through the centre of the city. Though the portion on one side of the fire land was completely destroyed, the other portion remained intact. Even though the fire burned for weeks it did not cross the ‘ Fire Lane”. Thus Mumbai was saved.

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