Thick black smoke blanketed the Serangoon Road hotel lobby as a fire consumed parts of the hotel restaurant.
Broadway Hotel shift manager Liaquath Ali found himself in a desperate situation.
But as he was wondering how he was going to get everyone out safely, he heard two voices assuring him he was not alone.
Unknown to Mr Ali, the two men were plainclothes cops who had turned up to help when the fire broke out in the restaurant's kitchen on Jan 25 at around 5pm.
Mr Ali, 54, told The New Paper recently: "Out of nowhere, the two men approached me and asked: 'How many fire extinguishers do you have? Give us as many as possible.'"
The duo were police Inspector Darius Teo, 37, and Staff Sergeant Muhammad Nizam Khan, 30, from Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre who were doing their supervisory rounds along Race Course Lane.
Said Insp Teo, who had seen white smoke from the kitchen's exhaust vent: "Very quickly we noticed the white smoke become thick black smoke. That's when we knew that something was probably wrong."
The pair rushed to the hotel lobby where they bumped into Mr Ali.
They then entered Delhi Restaurant armed with only two fire extinguishers while Mr Ali tried to douse the fire from outside the hotel with a water hose.
In the kitchen, the officers were confronted with a raging fire which was devouring the ceiling above the stove.
Said Insp Teo: "It was smoky and we couldn't see where we were going. We tried to put it out. Unfortunately, it was too big."
He was worried that a first-storey fire could restrict access to the hotel's higher levels. At that time, nobody knew how many guests were in their rooms.
A plan was made on the spot - Insp Teo and Mr Ali paired up to evacuate guests while Staff Sgt Nizam took control of the crowd of onlookers gathering along Serangoon Road.
An announcement to evacuate the building was made on the hotel's public address system.
Mr Ali said: "One of the hotel guests pleaded in Tamil for us to look for her 10-year-old son. She kept repeating that he was in a room on the fourth floor."
When the boy's room was checked, it was empty.
Luckily, the smoke had not spread to the upper floors.
Mr Ali escorted one sickly European man on the fourth storey to safety while Insp Teo continued his door-to-door checks.
In about 15 minutes, all 65 rooms on seven storeys were cleared and 26 guests were evacuated to safety.
Among those evacuated, two were taken to hospital for smoke inhalation and breathlessness. Fortunately, most of the guests were out sightseeing or shopping.
Aside from smelling badly of smoke, the two police officers only suffered sore throats. Staff Sgt Nizam lost his voice the next day but he did not tell his family about his Sunday afternoon drama.
He said: "I don't want to get them (his parents) worried. For me, it's part and parcel of my daily job."
Likewise, Insp Teo did not tell his wife the full extent of what had happened.
Immediately after the incident, both men even continued with their foot patrol duty in Little India.
Insp Teo, who has been in the Singapore Police Force for 17 years, said: "The end result was what we wanted. There were no fatalities... It was a good outcome."
Mr Ali said he was grateful to the two policemen. "Without them, I would have had a hard day."
This article was first published on Feb 24, 2015.
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