Sharjah Port fire – Heroes of the inferno

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Heroes of the inferno

By Alia Al Theeb and Abbas Al Lawati, Staff Reporters/GULF NEWS Published: August 19, 2007, 23:05

Dubai: As the thick smoke cleared, they could finally breathe easy – firefighters from across the country fought valiantly to combat the blaze that spread panic in Sharjah.

Gulf News spoke to two of the brave men who battled the inferno all night.

Two firefighters from Dubai Civil Defence said they spent 13 hours fighting the fire that started at oil products storage facilities of Emirates Lube Oil Company in Sharjah’s Port Khalid.

Lieutenant Colonel Ebrahim Al Sayegh, Coordinator of the Dubai firefighting teams on the site, told Gulf News he did not sleep for two days guiding his men. He said some firefighters were even called back from their vacations to help put out the fire.

He said Dubai teams supported Sharjah teams by providing them with water and in putting out the fire and getting into the site. He said around 30 firefighters and four fire officers went from Dubai, 15 on the first day and another 15 on the second day.

Break for a breath
Lieutenant Colonel Al Sayegh, who has been in the Civil Defence for 20 years, described the fire as a “developed fire”. He said there was thick black smoke which was suffocating.

“We needed a place to rest at the site, so a tent was put up. We took a breath every now and then. Some of us even went to rest in our cars,” he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Al Sayegh said he rested his men, changing them every day, but he remained on the scene. “I did not sleep for two days as I was responsible for updating the firefighting plans depending on the wind direction as well as coordinating the teams,” he said.

Lieutenant Majid Bin Hafez, a field officer and Director of Al Ghusais Civil Defence Centre, said he spent 13 continuous hours on the site.

“The team spirit on the site made the job easier because teams from various emirates worked next to each other to confine the fire,” he told Gulf News.

Lieutenant Bin Hafez, who has been working as a field officer for the past six years, said exhaustion is always a factor, especially during the heat, but most of the firefighters were in good physical shape. “The experience was exciting and added to my knowledge,” he said.

A firefighter from Sharjah Civil Defence who was on site, Mohammad Guloom, told Gulf News he had been trying to douse the fire and cool the area since Saturday.

“We have been here all this time trying to put out the fire and prevent it from spreading. There seems to be a lot of damage but we managed to get it under control with cooperation from other emirates,” he said, adding that the fire was one of the biggest he had tried to fight. “This was probably the biggest on a national scale.”

The summer temperatures made the job more difficult, he said, but the water being sprayed played its part in keeping the firefighters cool too, he said as he filled his helmet with water and poured it over his head.

Firefighters stayed on site for seven hours before their colleagues took over.

The area Guloom was trying to cool is where containers of imported cigarettes once stood. “Hundreds of cartons of many different kinds of cigarettes were burnt,” he said.

An official from a marine services operator, which has an office at Port Khalid, said the company had lost two cars.

“Three thousand workers have been off work but hopefully they will be back soon.”

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