A fire in a kirana (provisions) store in Burrabazar on Monday morning drove residents to tears, not by the sight of a neighbourhood shop going up in flames but because of the burning stockpile of red chilli and other spices.
Raju Agarwal, the owner of Hanuman Food Store at P-6 Kalakar Street, discovered the fire around 10.45am when his staff drew his attention to a peppery smell and thick smoke coming out of the shop’s mezzanine floor.
“The floor was filled with smoke and soon flames engulfed the whole shop,” he said.
In minutes the neighbourhood was enveloped in a thick haze of spicy smoke, causing severe irritation to the eyes.
A firefighter explained: “The mezzanine floor was used to stock red chilli powder and other spices. The condiments caught fire and produced a kind of smoke that caused severe burning sensation in the eyes.”
The fumes delayed the firefighting. “We couldn’t keep our eyes open. We had to fetch special breathing apparatus to enter the shop,” an officer said.
The shop burned till 1pm.
Residents backed out after attempting to lend a hand in the rescue. “I was choking, coughing and wheezing. My eyes started watering. I stepped back,” said Ram Sau, who sells phuchkas in front of Satyanarayan AC Market that was gutted a decade ago.