BENGALURU: The fire at Bellandur Lake on Friday was the biggest one at the lake so far. Aided by toxic sludge, solid waste, chemicals on the lake bed, and a helpful wind, the lake saw multiple fires making the mishap much larger than what was expected. The fire this time could have even caused damage to property and lives. This is why it was perhaps fortunate that the fire began so close to two army camps.
From the moment a sentry of the ASC Command Centre noticed the smoke at the lake around 12.30 pm, the army took charge of the situation and provided the required manpower and resources to fight the fire. “The lake catches fire every year so we are always alert. When a sentry alerted us, we swung into action and were at the site by 1 pm,” said Lieutenant General Vipan Gupta. Considering that the Karnataka State Fire and Rescue Department were only alerted about the fire at 2.30 pm and they arrived at 4 pm, the Army’s intervention was all the more significant.
The army deployed three fire tenders, and modified six other vehicles to douse the fire and alerted the station headquarters for more assistance. As many as 5,000 troops were on standby, and about 700-800 were fighting the fire on the ground. “Our main worry was that the fire should not spread towards the camp or the civilian area. We wanted to make sure it gets contained. It continued for almost 2-3 hours and we were all there,” Gupta said.
The Lieutenant General said the fire was contained by 4 pm, but two more fires broke out around 7 pm, which were duly dealt with.
Gupta said the Army would take up the issue of the polluted lake with the civic bodies, and will also offer assistance if needed. When asked about the possibility of more such incidents, he said, “Our sentries keep a watch 24/7 and we will not allow anything untoward to happen.”
Fighting fire and a snake bite too
One of the personnel was also bitten by a snake during the operations, but Major General Rajpurohit, who was also a part of the operations, said his condition is stable now.
A smokey aftermath on Day 2
Bengaluru: Operations to douse the fire at Bellandur lake finally ended around 6pm on Saturday - lasting 32 hours. The Karnataka State Fire and Emergency Services took over from the army personnel around 4pm on Friday afternoon and kept working on the site until 4.15am on Saturday. After a break of about two hours, the personnel started work again.
Though the fires had been extinguished on Friday night, smoke was still billowing on the lake bund, reportedly due to the presence of sludge, chemicals and solid wastes. “If we just shook the bushes from the roots, smoke was coming out,” said Basavanna C, Chief Fire Officer for Bengaluru. Basavanna said the personnel were using equipment such as shovels, crowbars, pickaxes and fire hooks to root out the vegetation and cool the ground. The department was using two fire tenders for the work, and had 10 more on standby. After the operation ended, two fire tenders were left at the site. K U Ramesh, Director of KSFES, said the personnel came across large quantities of solid waste, including bottles, CFL bulbs and plastic on the lake bed, clearly showing the amount of dumping done on the site.
Javadekar visits lake
Union Minister for Human Resource and BJP in-charge for state Prakash Javadekar visited the lake on Saturday. The minister said the Centre had taken note of the city’s lakes in 2015, had held meetings and prepared plans to rejuvenate them. The Centre had released `10 crore for the city’s lakes, including `2.63 crore for Bellandur lake, and yet its condition had not changed. He termed the incident a man-made disaster caused by inaction over 50 years Bengaluru Development Minister K J George, however, tweeted that the Centre’s claims of having released funds for the lakes were a “blatant lie,” and said the Centre had categorically denied the state’s requests for separate funding.