. Fire Service Week




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Fire Service Week

The Bombay Explosion or Bombay Docks Explosion occurred on 14 April 1944, in the Victoria Dock of Bombay now Mumbai when the freighter SS Fort Stikine carrying a mixed cargo of cotton bales, gold and ammunition including around 1,400 tons of explosives, caught fire and was destroyed in two giant blasts, scattering debris, sinking surrounding ships and setting fire to the area killing around 800 people

The SS Fort Stikine was a 7,142 gross register ton freighter built in 1942 in Prince Rubert, British Columbia under a lend-lease agreement, and was named after Fort Stikine, a former outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company located at what is now Wrangell, Alaska.

Sailing from Birkenhead on 24 February via Gibraltar, Port Said and Karachi, she arrived at Bombay on 12 April 1944. Her cargo included 1,395 tons of explosives including 238 tons of sensitive “A” explosives, torpedoes, mines, shells, munitions, Super marine Spitfire fighter aircraft, raw cotton bales, barrels of oil, timber, scrap iron and approximately £890,000 of gold bullion in bars in 31 crates.The 87,000 bales of cotton and lubricating oil were loaded at Karachi and the ship’s captain, Alexander James Naismith, recorded his protest about such a “mixture” of cargo.The transportation of cotton through sea route as inevitable for the merchants, as transporting cotton in rail from Punjab and Sindh to Bombay was banned at that time. Naismith, who lost his life in the explosion, also described the cargo as “just about everything that will either burn or blow up ’. The vessel had berthed and was still waiting unloading on 14 April, after 48 hours of berthing when it suddenly exploded.

It took three days to bring the fire under control, and later, 8,000 men toiled for seven months to remove around 500,000 tons of debris and bring the docks back into action. The official death toll was 740, including 476 military personnel, with around 1,800 people injured; unofficial tallies run much higher. The occupants of the slums were largely unregistered. In total, twenty-seven other vessels were sunk or damaged in both Victoria dock and the neighbouring prince’s dock

The inquiry into the explosion identified the cotton bales as probably being the seat of the fire. It was critical of several errors: storing the cotton below the munitions, not displaying the red flag required to indicate a dangerous cargo on board, delaying unloading the explosives, not using steam injectors to contain the fire and a delay in alerting the local fire brigade.

Many families lost all their belonging and were left with just the clothes on their back. Thousands became destitute. It was estimated that about 6,000 firms were affected and 50,000 lost their jobs. The government took full responsibility for the disaster and monetary compensation was paid to citizens who made a claim for loss or damage to property. During normal dredging operations carried out periodically to maintain the depth of the docking bays, many intact gold bars have been found over time – some as late as February 2011 – and they have since been returned to the British government. A live shell weighing 45 kilograms 99lb was also found in October 2011. The Mumbai Fire Brigade’s headquarters at Byculla has a memorial built in the memory of the numerous fire fighters who died. National Fire Safety Week is observed across India from 14 to 21 April in memory of the 66 firemen who died in this explosion.

14TH April is observed as MARTYR’S DAY in memory of all the valiant fire fighters who have sacrificed their lives at the altar of duty. A two minute silence is observed to pay homage to the martyrs.

The theme for this year’s Fire Service Week is :



All concerned to the care of the basics like:

  • Puja Room-Butter Lamps- Storing of Butter/oil near the lamps/puja room.
  • Gas cylinders/Kerosene Stoves/Stoves-storing of wood near kitchen.
  • Children And Fire-Care should be taken to present children from reaching stores and play with matches.
  • Careless Handling of match sticks, cigarettes inside/outside houses from high rise buildings.
  • Throwing of lighted butts-from cars, trucks on roadsides.


  • Standard appliances to be used.
  • Unscrupulous traders selling substandard cheap goods should be avoided.
  • Temporary pandals, lightings at festivals, marriages should be properly checked and exit routes be displayed.
  • Use of inflammable materials in pandals.
  • Room heater, charger, geysers, stoves, ovens should not be over used.
  • Periodic maintenance of appliances for coils etc.
  • Multiple appliances should not be used from a single socket.



Notice: In case of emergencies, dial Sikkim Fire Control Room Gangtok at 101 / 03592-202001 or nearest Fire Stations.