Firefighter saves woman with baby in Ubi warehouse fire
SCDF officer at burning Ubi building rescues nine people, including a woman carrying a baby, before heat exhaustion affects him
Through the thick, billowing smoke, he dashed up to the third-storey unit in an industrial building, expecting to see office employees.
But what Senior Warrant Officer (SWO2) Ricominoroy Pornamah and two fellow firefighters saw surprised them.
In the arms of one of the two women inside the unit was a baby who looked less than a year old.
Something stirred in SW02 Rico, 41, a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer and a father of six.
He instinctively asked to hold the baby.
By then, harsh heat and choking smoke was fast filling the industrial building
"I asked the woman if I could carry the baby because I wanted to protect it from the fire," said SWO2 Rico.
TNP INFOGRAPHICS: LEE HUP KHENG
But the woman declined his offer, clutching the child close to her chest as SWO2 Rico and his team led them to waiting paramedics.
The three were among nine people whom SWO2 Rico helped rescue from the burning building at Block 3019, Ubi Road 1.
Other SCDF officers pulled the 10th person, a man in his 50s, to safety.
The fire broke out at about 5.20pm on Monday, on the first storey of the four-storey industrial building, which houses multiple warehouses of different companies.
In a report on the fire the next day, The New Paper quoted a man in his 60s saying that the fire started in his warehouse on the first storey. He said that his company deals in mainly porcelain household items, cooking pots and utensils.
Yesterday, at Paya Lebar Fire Station, SWO2 Rico spoke about the rescue and the blaze, which took as many as 60 SCDF officers three hours to put out.
SCDF proceeded with damping down operations till early the next morning.
SW02 Rico said that after leading the two women and baby to safety, another SCDF officer told him that there were more people trapped on the fourth storey.
Without hesitation, he gathered three other firefighters to dash up the stairs to get to the unit.
Although exhausted, SWO2 Rico persevered.
The officers found the unit on the fourth storey locked. In an attempt to survive, five men and a woman had sealed themselves in the unit. SWO2 Rico reassured the group that SCDF was there to rescue them.
The six people were frightened and reluctant to open the door but were eventually persuaded to do so. The officers led the six shaken individuals to paramedics downstairs.
Although the wailing of the warning whistle on his breathing apparatus meant that he had only a few minutes of air left, SWO2 Rico wanted to carry on and help the other officers fight the fire, but he felt dizzy and out of breath..
At the request of his commander, Captain Muhammad Rizal Zakaria, SWO2 Rico was sent in an ambulance to Changi General Hospital.
Doctors there said he was suffering from heat exhaustion.
He was kept in observation for eight hours before he was discharged the next morning.
At the building, just when firefighters thought they had got everyone out, a man holding a mobile phone ran up to CPT Rizal and told him that one of his friends was trapped in a lift, which was stuck between the first and second storey.
Capt Rizal quickly sent a team to rescue the man.
The SCDF officers readied equipment and hurried to the lift, which was at the centre of the building. The fire had not been put out yet.
With the help of the building's lift technician, the trapped individual, a man in his 50s, was rescued.
SCDF said the cause of fire was still under investigation.
Capt Rizal, commander of Paya Lebar Fire Station, said that he was proud of all the SCDF officers involved.
He highlighted the efforts of SWO2 Rico, who he said helped to inspire many of the men on the ground.
During his 20 years of service, SWO2 Rico has been involved in high-profile incidents such as the Nicoll Highway collapse in 2004 and the Pulau Bukom oil refinery fire in 2011.
As a member of the SCDF's elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart), he has also been sent on overseas rescue missions in Pakistan and Indonesia.
Capt Rizal said: "I knew that with his experience, he could deliver. He could give assurance to our men and inspire them to work hard."
For SWO2 Rico, it was just another day on the job and he was just thankful that everyone was rescued.
He also urged people to be more vigilant.
"No one wants that kind of fire to happen to them," he said. "Luckily, everyone was saved."
He (SWO2 Rico) could give assurance to our men and inspire them to work hard.
- Captain Muhammad Rizal Zakaria, commander of Paya Lebar Fire Station
Fire statistics from January to June
- 4 Fatalities
- 29 Injuries
- 31 Smoke inhalation cases
- 82 Fires in industrial premises
- 114 Fires in commercial premises
- 58 Fires in social/communal premises
- 1,467 Fires in residential premises
- 531 Vegetation fires
- 91 Vehicle fires
- 44 Rubbish fires (in open space)