Fire was the first discovery made by man. It was discovered by chance at a time when men used to live in caves. It was found that if one piece of stone was struck with another, it produced a spark of fire. Fire was used to escape from the cold. Later it was used for cooking food.
In modern times, fire is used for running railway steam-engines. Big mills and factories are also run with the energy produced by burning coal or oil. Thermal Power Stations use it for producing electricity. Thus fire has become a great source of energy. It is very useful for mankind.
The Hindus worship fire. They call it “Agni Devta” i.e., God of fire. Marriages are performed by taking rounds around the sacred fire amidst the chanting of mantras. When a Hindu dies, his body is consigned to fire. Fire kills germs. It keeps the atmosphere clean.
Fire is a good servant but a bad master. If fire goes out of control, it can cause great loss of life and property. It has immense power of destruction.
I vividly recall a fire accident that took place in our neighborhood last month. It was the hottest month of the summer season. The city was in the grip of a heat wave. The weather was very hot and sultry. At night, most people were sleeping outside their houses, in the streets and other open spaces. All of a sudden I heard frantic cries of Fire! Fire!
I got up from my bed at once and opened my window. When I looked out from my window, I saw clouds of smoke rising from a house in our neighborhood. I immediately rang up the Fire Brigade and told them that a house in our neighborhood had caught fire. I gave them the exact location of the house on fire. They assured me that they would be reaching the scene of the fire within ten minutes. I also informed the police of this incident.
On reaching the scene of the fire, I saw a large crowd of people who had already gathered there. The screams of the children trapped inside the house were getting louder. Some people were watching this heart-rending spectacle with sad and heavy heart. They wondered if it would be possible to re icue the children. Others entered the house from the backside and stalled throwing on the road whatever household articles they could lay their hands on. Their idea was to salvage whatever they could. Some members of the public were bringing buckets of water from a nearby tap and throwing it on the fire. Some people also brought a few bags of sand from a nearby house. They threw sand on the fire to extinguish it. As the wind was strong, the fire kept on raging and enveloping more and more portions of the house.
Two engines of the Fire Brigade reached the spot within ten minutes. There were five firemen with each fire-engine. They were wearing khaki uniforms and helmets. Just then, a contingent of policemen from the local Police Station also arrived on the scene. The Member of the Delhi Metropolitan Council elected from our locality also came rushing. He made anxious inquiries as to whose house had caught fire and whether any person was trapped inside. He was told that two small children with their grandmother were inside the house at the time of the fire. No one had seen them coming out. The parents of these children were standing outside the house and weeping bitterly. They were praying to God for the safety of their children.
The police cordoned off the affected area. The firemen of the Fire Brigade swung into action immediately. They showered a lot of water on the fire from their hose-pipes. Two firemen with fire-proof uniforms entered the house and with great difficulty brought out the old lady and the two children who were trapped inside the house. The children had suffered minor burns. But they were out of danger. All the people standing there heaved a sigh of relief. Everybody was praising the brave men of the Fire Brigade who had rescued them from the jaws of death.
It took the Fire Brigade one hour to bring the fire under control. There was no loss of life but a major portion-of the beautiful house was reduced to ashes. Loss to property was estimated to be to the tune of Rs. 1, 75,000. As ill- luck would have it, this house was not insured. Preliminary investigation revealed that the fire was caused by a short circuit in the electric wiring.