Nine air-conditioning maintenance workers have been hailed for their bravery after they rescued 11 tenants from a burning building in Al Wakrah last month.
At around 9:30 am on June 13, the men – who all work for the Al Muftah Sharp Service Centre – were carrying out routine maintenance on air conditioning units in the town when they noticed smoke coming out of one of the buildings on the site.
Speaking to Doha News, one of the men, Haider Ali, recalled:
“We told our supervisor, Ibrahim Elsayed, who then told us to tell the people living in the building. There were three stories – one person on the first floor, a big family of eight on the second, and a woman and her child on the roof penthouse.”
Under the direction of Elsayed, the men called emergency services, then attempted to enter the building to alert the sleeping tenants, but were unable to do so as the staircase leading up to the second and third floors was ablaze.
The workers then decided to use service ladders that they had brought along to reach the first-floor apartment windows.
Rescuer Mohamed Hussain told Doha News:
“We knocked on the glass to wake up the family and tried to keep them as calm as possible. It was a large family – parents, children, and grandparents. We told them that there was a small fire. At that time, smoke started coming under the doors, so we told them not to exit that way.”
The men first evacuated the children before helping the parents and grandmother escape through the window.
As their ladders were too short to reach the penthouse on the building’s terrace, some members of the team climbed onto the roof of an adjacent building and crossed over.
“We told the woman what had happened, and then took her child and jumped across to the other building safely, and then came back and helped her,” Ali said.
Video footage seen by Doha News shows several men, clothed in their service jumpsuits, helping children through the first-floor windows while thick clouds of gray and black smoke could be seen billowing out of the two vertically stacked windows of the burning staircase.
Several men could also be seen on the roof, having crossed over from an adjacent building. Meanwhile, passersby and onlookers attempted to stem the flames and billowing smoke using fire extinguishers.
Civil Defense officials and ambulance services arrived shortly after the tenants were rescued. The team worked to put out the fire and rushed the tenants to the hospital to check for any smoke-related injuries.
All 11 of the residents are reportedly safe and sustained no injuries aside from mild breathing issues related to smoke inhalation.
The nine rescuers – Ibrahim Elsayed, Ahmed Essam, Mohamed Hussain, Mahendran Kandiah, Suranga Dias, Chandra Shekar, Arvind Kumar, Kadar Khan, and Haider Ali – hail from Egypt, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India.
After the rescue, the men went back to work.
“When we went back to continue our maintenance work, several people thanked us, and that felt really nice,” Hussain said.
Cause of the Fire
It is thought the fire began due to a short circuit in one of the building’s main control panels, which was located under the main staircase.
The Al Muftah employees told Doha News that they thought it had spread quickly due to the presence of furniture, mattresses, and a motorized exercise machine, all of which were all stored next to the panel.
“We saw that the rubber of the exercise machine was burnt…rubber catches fire very easily. There was also some wooden furniture and some mattresses, which, again, catches fire very easily.
It seemed like the area was used as a sort of storage facility for the building’s tenants, and that’s definitely a fire hazard.”
In recognition of their act of bravery, the men’s employer has awarded them with certificates and cash gifts.
Speaking to Doha News, Mohammad Ibrahim, a division manager at the Al Muftah service station in Al Wakrah, said that the reward was an attempt to inspire other company employees.
“We want to encourage all of our employees, servicemen, and the community to help out if they see people in need. When people see small fires, they usually just wait for the fire department or police to arrive, but that may be very late. People should first ensure that they are safe, and then try to help people in an orderly manner,” Mohammad Ibrahim said.
Because the nearest fire station was kilometers away, the rescue team said they hope to persuade Civil Defense to open up a branch nearer to the housing development and others, to improve safety.
“There’s a large residential complex, a branch of Hamad Hospital and a new mall coming up, but the fire department is next to the Airport Road. It’s too far away, in case something happens. There needs to be quicker response,” Elsayed said.