Article by: Rajesh Rajgor

Story by : Rajesh Rajgor


Mumbai’s new 90 m fire ladder is all set to tackle an untoward incident of a fire in a high rise.

A massive fire broke out at the 22nd floor of a high rise at Andheri last year. There were no casualties in the blaze on the 21st floor that later spread to the 22nd floor of the building. Over two dozen fire-tenders battled the flames and a navy helicopter was pressed into action. Proliferating high rise buildings in Mumbai are ensuring that the city’s fire brigade has the equipment to rise higher. The fact that the Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB) has acquired a 90 m fire ladder should not come as a surprise. What makes it exciting is that this is the first 90 m fire ladder in India to be pressed into a government fire fighting and rescue organisation. Made by Finland-based Bronto Skylift Oy AB, the 90 m fire ladder has the Mercedes Actros 6260 as the chassis. Powered by a 600 hp OM series V8 engine along with Telligent automated manual transmission (AMT), the fire ladder has six-axles and measures 16.5 m in length. “The first, second, third and sixth axles are steerable on this truck. The fourth and fifth axles are powered. Known as a hydraulic platform, the special application vehicle can reach a height of 30 floors of a high rise,” reveals R A Chaudhary, Chief Technical Officer, Mumbai Fire Brigade. A built-in fire fighting pump on the vehicle is driven by a Power Take Off (PTO) shaft from the engine, and has the maximum pump capacity of 6000 litres per minute (lpm) at 10 bar pressure. Chaudhary states, “The water monitor fitted on this fire ladder will help us control the water pressure and depending on the situation we may only need to use around 3800 lpm at 90 m since the throw of water will be another 40 m.” Interestingly, it were Sunil Nesarikar and Chaudhary who were instrumental in acquiring this vehicle. The duo flew to Finland in April to check out the truck at Bronto’s facility. A month later, in May, Nesarikar was critically injured during a fire fighting and rescue operation at a building in south Mumbai. He succumbed to his injuries, but not before gifting the city a 90 m fire ladder. “He (Nesarikar) tested the new ladder to ensure his department was better prepared to fight fires,” says Chaudhary. The maiden vehicle with the longest ladder has been bought for Rs. 16 crore. This includes the cost of the chassis, the cost of fabrication, custom duty, and transportation.


Technical finesse

Advanced in its construction, the fire ladder, according to Chaudhary, can be operated by a small stand-by pump (SSP) should the main (engine) system break down. “We have multiple options ensuring that the vehicle never stops functioning. If both the engine and SSP fail, we can operate the hydraulic pump using the vehicle’s battery,” he exclaims. There is a fourth option as well. In case of a failure of hydraulics, there is a bleed down system which calls for the pressing of a button, which will bring the boom down. The ladder has three booms. The first main boom comes with four telescopic sections; the second boom comes with two telescopic sections, and the the third boom is articulated. For a truck that measures 16.5 m in length, 4.15 m in height, and is 2.55 m in width, the electro hydraulic system on the super structure is controlled by a computer through a CAN bus system. Mentions Chaudhary, this vehicle has four computers which interact with each other through a CAN bus system and the height, angle and every movement is programmed. The vehicle boasts of two controls — one is to control the turntable (master control), and the other is to control the cage (the basket that hangs at the back and goes upto a height of 90 m). Under warranty for two years according to Chaudhary, for regular maintenance the 90 m fire ladder will be looked upon at the repair shop of MFB. “We have our own repair and maintenance workshop, so we don’t have long term AMC with the vehicle manufacturer or the Finland based company apart from warranty,” explains Chaudhary.


Saving life

If the new 90 m fire ladder adds to the capabilities of the MFB, it is one such organisation that is looked upon as a life saver in India’s financial capital. MFB doesn’t merely rescue human lives, it has carried out missions to save lives of animals as well. “We have 2500 personnel working with us. They are spread across 33 fire stations that MFB has, and attend to approximately 16,000 calls on an average every year. These could be to rescue birds and animals apart from human beings. Other than fire fighting and rescue missions, MFB personnel are also called to rescue people from drowning, building collapse, tree collapse, road accidents, rail accidents, oil spillage, etc. “MFB also gets called when an elderly person or a kid gets locked inside the house,” Chaudhary mentions. The range of service MFB is expected to perform is thus limitless almost. Under the aegis of the Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Pallika, or the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), MFB services are free of cost. “It is a public service and we don’t bill any body,” informs Chaudhary.

To aid in its missions, MFB has a gamut of vehicles. “As of current we have 220 different types of vehicles (see the box for details) ranging from basic fire vehicles called the fire engines, special foam tenders, large capacity water bowsers, generator vans, special rescue vans, breathing apparatus vans along with ambulances, Jeeps and cars,” informs Chaudhary. Given the demand, and the need to serve people in the shortest possible time, MFB is planning to open 26 new fire stations within the MCGM jurisdiction in the next five years.


Need BS IV vehicles

One of the biggest challenges MFB is facing at this moment is the procurement of BS IV emission compliant vehicles and as per their safety specs. “Some Indian OEMs do have a certain vehicle range in BS IV guise, but they do not meet the special application status needed for fighting operations. We are unable to derive adequate torque, hp, wheelbase, and PTO in BS IV vehicles available. This brings about a need to customise them. We therefore have been urging OEMs to engineer vehicles that would address our needs,” Chaudhary laments. He draws attention to fire fighting vehicles in developed countries, which are designed by OEMs specially for fire rescue operations. “In India, the volume of fire fighting vehicles may not be big for OEMs to look at. We therefore feel the need to customise the vehicles to address our needs, says Chaudhary. He adds, “We are in the process of getting a brand new customised rescue vehicle from MAN Truck India fitted with Allison automatic transmission that complies with BS IV emission norms.”


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