|Flames leap out from the godown adjoining Kidzee on Monday and (right) the panic-stricken children after being shifted to another centre. (Hardeep Singh)
Eighty children of a Ranchi preschool had a close shave when a big fire broke out at an adjoining godown on Monday morning.
Prompt action by alert staff of Kidzee, Bariatu, helped rescue the students — aged between two and five years — who became frightened on seeing the leaping flames and started running helter-skelter. Though no one was injured, goods worth over Rs 10 lakh kept in the godown, belonging to Singh Tent House, were gutted. Kidzee too suffered losses as water tanks and windows got partially burnt. The cause of the fire is not known yet.
According to eyewitnesses, the blaze broke out at the godown, roughly spread over 5,000sqft next to the preschool in Bariatu housing colony, around 10.45am.
The children — some of who were inside classrooms while others were playing in a small area on the veranda — panicked when they saw the flames, which spread faster and rose above 250-300 metres within minutes. They started crying and running inside the school building.
But the school employees kept their cool and swung into the rescue act with help from local residents.
“We broke the rear door of the school to bring out the children first. We had to evacuate them from the back by scaling the six feet boundary wall as smoke had completely engulfed the front side. Given their age, it was natural for the children to get frightened,” said Ashish, an employee who suffered minor bruises while rescuing the children.
Local resident Kamal Singh said he rushed to help when he saw the plight of the little students. “Others alerted police and fire brigade.”
Sub-inspector of Bariatu police station Jamadar Munda, who visited the spot, said three fire tenders were pressed into action. The team fought for over two hours to bring the flames under control, but by then, all stocks at the tent house like bamboo poles, shamianas, tables and chairs had been charred.
“Singh Tent House is run by one Vicky Bedi. The owner stocks all goods here. A handful of tent house workers are posted at the godown as security guards. There is a small room on the premises where they live. Though we are yet to ascertain the exact cause of fire, someone told us that the workers were preparing lunch on a stove, which might have been the source of the blaze,” he said.
Local residents said such an incident was a first at the godown, which had been in the neighbourhood for years.
School officials agreed.
“It was really unfortunate. We also suffered some damages as water tanks and windows of the preschool got partially blackened and burnt. The only saving grace is that the children are safe,” said Sudhir Kumar, an employee.