Rota Commander, LTA Noor Hidayat Bin Abdul Wahid (in yellow firefighting gear) and his team of firefighters.
“Fire in 5th floor unit. Someone trapped inside.”
That was the message routed to the Rota on shift at Jurong Fire Station on the night of 18th August 2019. Two fire bikes, two fire engines, a Red Rhino and a combined platform ladder were immediately dispatched to the scene at Block 158 Yung Loh Road.
En-route to the incident, a million thoughts were racing through the mind of Rota Commander, LTA Noor Hidayat Bin Abdul Wahid. He had assumed the role just over a month, and this was his first residential unit fire. The information about the trapped person added another layer of urgency. Coupled with the fact that he was a young Full-Time National Serviceman (NSF) about to command a team of almost 20 firefighters, some with over a decade of experience, he felt the pressure mounting. He set his emotions aside and focused on the task at hand.
Upon arriving at the incident site, thick black smoke was spewing out from the affected unit and huge orange flames could be seen. A loud explosion then rang into the night.
“When I heard the explosion, I was really hoping it wasn’t from the unit. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking about putting out the fire. All I was thinking about was how to rescue the trapped person as soon as possible”, LTA Hidayat recounted.
The fire broke out in a fifth-storey flat at Block 158, Yung Loh Road. PHOTO: The NewPaper; Shin Min reader, Tatiana Mohamad Rosli.
There was no time to waste. LTA Hidayat instructed his fire engine crew to set up water supply and led the Red Rhino crew up the block to set up that crucial first water jet. He was comforted by the sight of the two fire bikers sprinting ahead of him with their Compressed Air Foam (CAF) backpacks.
On the 5th floor, a few residents were attempting to put out the fire with buckets of water, and there were hysterical cries for help for a woman trapped inside the unit’s kitchen. The two fire bikers were already at work battling the fire with foam from outside the unit, inching their way inside carefully.
Looking into the unit with his Thermal Imager, LTA Hidayat saw a clear path from the front door to the kitchen. One of the fire bikers attempted to enter the unit with his CAF backpack to beat back the fire in order to rescue the woman.
This was when LTA Hidayat hit a critical juncture in the operation. In training, he was taught to deploy a protective jet in order to advance into a burning unit. He knew that it would take a couple of minutes for his crew to have the jet charged up; a couple of minutes the trapped woman could not afford in the searing and suffocating fire. He had to make a decision and he had to make it fast.
With complete trust in his fire biker, who had over 10 years of operational experience, LTA Hidayat sent him in together with a Section Commander to rescue the woman. After what seemed like an excruciating few minutes, the two firefighters emerged with the woman – barely conscious - draped around their shoulders. Despite her condition, the sight of the rescued woman brought immense relief to the crew.
After the fire was extinguished, LTA Hidayat found out from the two gallant firefighters that they found the woman sitting on the window ledge with one leg out; desperately trying to escape from the fire.
“It made me feel that I had made the right call to send my guys in as quickly as possible. Who knows what would have happened if we had waited any longer”, said LTA Hidayat.