SCDF personnel: Ferocity of Tuas fire shocking

SCDF personnel: Ferocity of Tuas fire shocking
(From left) Corporal Tan Zhi Wei, fire station operationally ready national serviceman; Sergeant Muhammad Farhan Kutubundeen, fire station operationally ready national serviceman; Major Huang Weikang, Commander of Tuas View Fire Station, Captain Shawn Tan, rotation (Rota) Commander; Staff Sergeant Salman Adam, HazMat Specialist; Sergeant Syazrul Hakim Zulkifli, Fire and Rescue Specialist and full-time national serviceman; Lance Corporal Wong Weiyang, firefighter and full-time national serviceman.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

When operationally ready National Serviceman Corporal Tan Zhi Wei, 23, fought last Thursday's blaze at Tuas View Circuit, the road had cracked from the heat and the oil and sludge that covered it was bubbling.

The firefighters' canvas hoses were burnt and the metal nozzle melted.

Only his fire-rated boots kept his feet safe.

Cpl Tan, a full-time chef at a cafe, was driving to Tuas View Fire Station for his in-camp training when he saw columns of thick black smoke from afar.

When he reached ECO Special Waste Management, whose premises were ablaze, he was stunned by what he saw.

He said: "I was shocked but there was no time to think."

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) sent 200 personnel and 38 emergency vehicles, including three unmanned firefighting machines, to battle the blaze.

For some of the firefighters, who were activated at about 6.15am, it was just two hours before the end of their 24-hour shift.

A team of about 16 responders were the first to arrive at the scene five minutes later.

Full-time National Serviceman Sergeant Syazrul Hakim Zulkifli, 23, was one of them.

He said the heat could be felt from inside the fire engine.

The sky was still dark and visibility was made worse due to the thick smoke, and the wind was blowing it towards them.

Under the command of Rota Commander Captain Shawn Tan (see report below), the team tried to contain the fire until reinforcements arrived.

Sgt Syazrul said: "From afar we could see the smoke and smell the chemicals. We could also hear the explosions and feel the heat."

He said oil seeped into the drainage and the fire suddenly spread beneath them.

CLOSE CALL

Some parts of their gear were burnt and even their hoses were damaged. They then received orders to retreat.

He said: "Some of the equipment that we used was left inside the fire. So we had to move the vehicles and set up the hoses again."

Both Cpl Tan and Sgt Syazrul said this was the biggest blaze they had faced so far.

They took four hours to extinguish it.

One firefighter was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital with heat exhaustion and has since been discharged.

There were no other casualties.

Tuas View Fire Station was opened in 2014.

In a Facebook post on Thursday night, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam praised the SCDF for the way they tackled the blaze.

Shanmugam: Firefighter Tan is a true professional

She was the first female responder at the Tuas View Circuit fire last Thursday.

Rota Commander Captain Shawn Tan, 28, led the first team of firefighters from Tuas View Fire Station to battle the inferno.

Cpt Tan, who is married with no children, is also the only woman working at the station.

She has been with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for almost two years and said this was one of the biggest fires she had fought.

She said: "The adrenaline is there to cover the jitters.

"Our training is very important to ensure everything is second nature to us.

"By the time we handed over to the next shift, we were all quite tired."

Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Mr K. Shanmugam, visited the firefighters at the scene that night.

He praised the SCDF on his Facebook page and highlighted the efforts of Cpt Tan.

He posted: "She was on duty yesterday, spent all of today firefighting and will be on duty again tomorrow.

"When I asked her how she felt, she said it was a meaningful job! True professional."

Cpt Tan was previously an army regular for six years.

She also dives and is now a rescue diver and divemaster.

Her father was sceptical about her joining the SCDF at first.

She said: "I told him I have a higher calling elsewhere. At that point in time he was very ill, so I told him you have to trust me on this. When I went for my training, he passed away."

hmang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 28, 2017.
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