Bengaluru: Swift action by the Operational Control Centre (OCC) and good coordination by disaster management teams seem to have averted a major tragedy inside Air Force Station (AFS) Yelahanka on Saturday.
As reported by Onmanorama earlier, 278 cars have been completely gutted and 73 cars were damaged in the fire that broke out at noon during the 4th day of Aero India 2019.
According to sources, the entire fire was doused completely within 45 minutes and all other vehicle were isolated. There were roughly around 3,000 cars parked at this venue when the show was in full swing.
Any delays from the entire team would have gutted all the vehicles parked at the site.
Two customer demonstration flights were on while the fire broke out and the show continued unhampered.
Verified details now emerging out reveal that many vehicles were broken into by the rescue team and moved away from fire.
The entire operation is said to have been coordinated by OCC Commander Gp Capt S K Gupta.
Ten fire tenders along with seven water bowsers (tankers) and 33 Agni and Varuna vehicles were moved quickly to contain the fire.
Additionally six CFTs (crash fire tenders) were also moved to the site within 10 minutes into the fire. 3000 litres of foam normally used to fight aircraft fire was sprayed.
It was like a war zone with petrol and diesel tanks bursting one after another when the CFTs reached the spot. CFT foam was sprayed on the vehicles to prevent spreading of fire.
A Mi-17 SAR (Search and Rescue) chopper was launched to ascertain the extent of damage and evacuate causalities, if any.
The fire was also spotted by the security cameras at the OCC which also helped swifter action. Around 600 security cameras are fitted across the base to monitor various activities during the show. These are manned 24x7 spotters from Intelligence Bureau and Central Industrial Security Force.
Initial media reports said ‘grass fire’ was the reason for the incident, but this angle is now ruled out as the area has been continuously used by vehicles in the last four days, leaving barely any grass for the fire to catch.
While the inquiry is on, sources point out the following likely causes into the fire.
1) Bursting of gas lighter left in a car.
2) Bursting of battery pack that was left behind. (External power banks are prone to explosion if left in high temperature zones.)
3) Fire that could have triggered by cigarette butt.
4) Foul play.
Post-incident, Karnataka Police and IAF together opened kiosks to facilitate speedy filing of FIR and other administrative help required for the affected. There were no causalities in the incident.
At the time of filing this report, ADG Fire Sunil Agarwal was meeting top IAF officials at the base to discuss further course of action.
Meanwhile, the organisers have confirmed that the show will go on on Sunday as scheduled and end peacefully as planned. More than one lakh visitors are expected to hit the base on February 24, which is the 5th and last day of the show.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)