It was close to bedtime when a fire blazed through Tuas Avenue, engulfing an entire warehouse, about 5-storey in height, trailing through the drains - a scene straight out of a movie scene.
It was about 9.45pm on 17 March 2020, when SCDF was alerted to a fire at Tuas Avenue 18. The fire was raging through a warehouse filled with what felt like an infinite supply of diesel and cleaning agents - all of which were flammable - in drums that would later expand, explode and threaten to assist the fire in spreading. The situation was a precarious one - firefighters had to not only fight the inferno that was growing in front of them, they also had to contain it and ensure that the fire does not go on a rampage, engulfing everything else in its path, like it already did with the drain.
Thick black smoke could be seen from a distance, much like a neon sign indicating the location of the bright, bold fire that continued to rage on, warranting a total of 45 vehicles and 180 firefighters to bravely fight and prevent its spread. An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was also soaring through the sky to give an overview of the situation, letting firefighters know what they were up against.
To ensure the safety of the firefighters, SCDF used the Unmanned Firefighting Machine (UFM), to enter riskier areas and get as close as possible, to the seat of the fire, driving the thick black smoke out of the confined areas for better visibility and assessment of the situation for the firefighters.
The raging inferno turned into a tale of Gulliver’s Travels, where the blaze was surrounded and contained by 12 foam jets.
Joined by SCDF’s elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART), the fire, which has spread to an area as large as the size of one and a half football fields, was brought under control at 11am, approximately 11 hours after it first began its conquest – eventually, a total of two units were affected by the fire.
Despite the brave firefighters’ proficiency, the arduous operations was not without its set of challenges – firefighters braved the drums of burning flammable substances stacked vertically up to five storeys and even navigated cautiously between narrow aisles of shelves in smoke logged and near-zero visibility conditions.
Red Rhino in action using its water monitor. An SCDF innovation, the Red Rhino is specially designed to be more compact than a conventional fire engine, enabling it to be deployed closer to a fire or rescue incident.
Despite the harsh conditions this inferno brought, the firefighters pulled an all-nighter, powering through from dusk to dawn, doing their best to save lives and property.
Even appliance need to rest, too (picture: UFM)