It was only the crack of dawn on a rainy December morning but SCDF firefighters were already in full swing, tackling a blaze that was threatening to spread in Tuas Crescent.
At 5.57am on 11 December 2019, SCDF received a call on a fire at No. 48 Tuas Crescent. Mere streets away from the incident, the personnel from Rota 3 of Tuas Fire Station swung into action. A thick column of black smoke rising into the still dark sky marked their destination. Within four minutes of the fire being reported, SCDF was at the scene.
It was apparent that this was no ordinary fire when the firefighters saw long stretches of drains surrounding the warehouse were on fire. The fire was spreading fast due to flammables such as petrochemicals including solvents but additional personnel from the other fire stations arrived soon after, providing the much-needed manpower and resources to embark on a two-pronged firefighting strategy.
Firefighters had to cut the fire off from spreading along the drains while surrounding the burning warehouse to prevent it from affecting the neighbouring premises. Foam was also used to blanket the burning chemicals and cool the affected area, the size of a football field.
“They had to deal with the fire that is running along the drain to prevent it from spreading downstream,” said Assistant Commissioner Daniel Seet, Director of Operations in a soundbite with the media on some of the challenges faced during the firefighting operations.
Metal drums of chemicals were impelled into the air with every conflagration, posing projectile risks to the SCDF responders. Dozens of bloated and distorted drums littered the ground, each marking every instance in which the firefighters had to steel their resolve and stand their ground.
Leveraging technology allows firefighters to stay at a safe distance during firefighting operations. Three Unmanned Firefighting Machines (UFMs) were deployed alongside some 130 firefighters while an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) hovered silently in the air above providing Commanders a holistic aerial perspective of the ongoing operations.
Meanwhile, Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Specialists were deployed to monitor the readings and take samples of the surrounding areas to ensure that the chemicals do not pose any danger to the responders and the public.
Within four hours, the fire was brought under control and contained within the affected premises. But the battle was not over with, firefighters donning Breathing Apparatus sets and face masks valiantly penetrating into the heart of the inferno.
The enormous fire was extinguished by noon, some six hours later with no casualties.