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Firefighter grabbed one child in each arm in escape from Sengkang flat blaze

Firefighter grabbed one child in each arm in escape from Sengkang flat blaze
Among the firefighters are (from left) Sergeant(3) Rafiqi Hilman, Staff Sergeant Ahmed Haliim Khan, Warrant officer(2) Muhammad Himmi bin Ibrahim, Major Othman Sharif, Lieutenant Teo Kang Xiang, Corporal (NSF) Aaron Tay Hong Jun, Sergeant(1) (NSF) Christopher Kai Treloar.
PHOTO: Lianhe Zaobao

SINGAPORE - When firefighters entered a burning flat on Wednesday, they followed the sounds of screams for help and located a family hiding in a bedroom in their five-room unit. 

One of the firefighters, Sergeant(3) Rafiqi Hilman, 25, saw a couple and their three children - a two-year-old boy, and girls aged nine and 12 - huddling together as the fire raged in the kitchen.

He knelt down in front of the two girls and told them he would get them out.

Grabbing one girl in his right arm and the other in his left, he carried them out of the flat to safety.

At about 2.45am on Wednesday, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was alerted to a fire in a fourth storey unit at Block 280B Sengkang East Avenue.

Its firefighters put out the blaze and rescued the couple and their children.

About 50 residents were evacuated from the building. Preliminary investigations indicated the fire was likely due to an electrical fault.

The fire, which was determined by the SCDF to involve contents of the kitchen, was extinguished with a water jet. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE CIVIL DEFENCE FORCE/FACEBOOK

On Friday, The Straits Times interviewed some of the firefighters involved at Sengkang Fire Station.

When the firefighters arrived at the flat, they found the front gate locked.

Section commander, Sergeant(1) Christopher Kai Treloar, 19, a full-time national serviceman, used a power saw to break it open.

Sergeant(3) Rafiqi rushed in and heard screams for help.

He said: “I followed the screams and realised it was coming from one of the bedrooms. They were all huddled near the window and shaking in fear.”

He knelt in front of the two older children and reassured them in a calm voice that he would rescue them. He then carried both girls, one under each arm, out with their mother following closely behind.

Meanwhile, Staff Sergeant Ahmed Haliim Khan, 33, was trying to calm down the frantic father and convince him to hand over his two-year-old son.

He then carried the boy out of the flat, with the father following behind.

He noticed the man was struggling to breathe and immediately gave his personal compressed air supply to him outside the lift lobby.

He later led the family to waiting ambulances.

Inside the flat, rota commander Lieutenant Teo Kang Xiang, 28, used a thermal imaging device to locate the source of the fire.

Commander of Sengkang Fire Station, Major Muhamad Othman Sharif, 31, said the family was out within 15 minutes and the fire was under control.

He commended the family for their quick thinking in distancing themselves from the blaze and staying together, while trying to get the attention of passers-by from their bedroom window.

He added: “We worked fast, and we knew our firefighters relied on each other to ensure that the operation could be done well.”

Firefighters from Punggol Fire Station were also involved in the operation.

Staff Sergeant Ahmed, who has two sons, a two-year-old and a six-month-old, was grateful when he got home late and hugged his children.

He said: “How I carried the boy out of the fire was how I carried my sons, and it made me treasure my family so much more.”

ALSO READ: Sengkang neighbours use crowbar to try save family in burning flat

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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