How brother's death fired up Kolkata's Fire Champion

How brother's death fired up Kolkata's  Fire Champion

“I lost my elder brother Narendra on a Deepavali night in a fire tragedy when I was just 12 years old. It changed my life forever,” said Padmashri Bipin Ganatra, the Fire Champion of Kolkata who was felicitated at the ‘Beyond Carlton Memorial Lecture 2017’ here on Saturday.

‘Bipin Da’, as he is popularly known among firefighters and people of Kolkata, is a lean 59-year-old who sleeps late, looking for fire accident news on television. If any incident happens, he calls up the fire control and enquires about the number of fire tenders despatched, gets the coordinates and rushes to the spot by taxi, bus or tram, he said. At times, he reached the spot before the fire tenders.

Ganatra said his brother’s death inspired him to save people from fire accidents. He has put out over 100 fires and rescued many people, including a still-alive patient trapped in the ICU of a burning hospital. Ganatra is not a trained firefighter, though. “Since my childhood, I rushed to every fire accident spot and watched how firefighters worked. Later, I started helping them and learnt on the job,” he said.

Ganatra easily goes into the smoke billowing from any burning building and finds a way to rescue people trapped inside. Even firefighters give him way. He knows how fire spreads and gives firefighters useful tips on evacuating people. He himself escaped unhurt in two fire accidents. Once, he was trapped for nearly two hours under the debris of a burning building that collapsed on him while he was putting out the fire, he said.

Beyond Carlton, a citizen-initiated movement, felicitated seven other firefighters. M N Reddi, DGP, Fire and Emergency Services, said his immediate focus was to make his men competent and agile firefighters who were powerful and capable first responders.

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