Mumbai Fire Brigade: Cityscapes & the Edge of the City
Duration: 00:30:29; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 250.804; Saturation: 0.008; Lightness: 0.476; Volume: 0.333; Cuts per Minute: 6.724; Words per Minute: 9.118
Summary: The landscapes shot vary from dense slum neighbourhoods, to old industrial areas, dump-yards at the edge of the city.
Historically, fires, dilapidation, and danger to heath and life have formed the vocabulary of practices that sought to cleanse and reorganize city quarters, and relocate danger to the outside or elsewhere.
Most of these landscapes that the videos record seem to somehow evade or to lie outside these imaginations of the safe and clean city, and are always being pushed to its boundaries.
These are mostly spaces of informal enterprise and labour, in the dump yards, older industrial neighbourhoods and slums that the mechanisms of civic services and infrastructure are unable to address in their more technocratic imperatives.
The first fire takes place in a single storied building in the mill lands area.
The video shot from a neighbouring roof, shows a landscape of roofs and trusses, firemen clambering over them to get to the fire, the surrounding landscape of chawls and chimneys rising up through the smoke and scenes from the insides of the homes burnt down with the remnants of everyday lives among the ashes.
These areas had begun to developing the late 1800’s when the American civil war virtually stopped all cotton imports into Britain and the demand for cotton from India grew. Industrialists and entrepreneurs set up cotton mills, and built the most rudimentary accommodation for the migrant workers with single room tenements, common sanitation facilities and corridors. These neighbourhoods, with each mill and the surrounding chawls crammed into every inch of available land, became the centre of Mumbai’s economic growth, and a vibrant working class community and culture grew in the streets. Perceived alternatively as slums and congested areas by the British and the middle class, paralysed and weakened by the strike of 1982 and by newer industrial areas in the peripheries, they are now quickly transforming into elite residential enclaves and leisure zones with a gradual displacement of the mill workers communities and livelihoods.
The next two clips are of fires in slums. in the slum fires, the spaces within the slum, between densely packed houses, narrow alleys and gaps from where a clear view or understanding of where the danger is located exactly becomes impossible, people flee to the spaces outside, or onto the roofs with their contiguous and overlapping surfaces, which becomes the landscape of grey corrugated sheets that offers views of the fire and the space from where it can be attacked.
The first video is of a fire in a slum where the landscape of a naala (creek), densely packed houses and a fire in the centre of the close knit and entangled homes has to be extinguished from the outside and from neighbouring roofs. People pass their belongings and wade through the creek to escape.
The second video of a fire in Dharavi, where the entire road and roof fill up with people getting out of the inner streets, to flee the fire, to watch and to help.
The last video is of a fire in a rubber dump yard at the edge of the city to the creek. The issue whether the site is authorized or unauthorized remains unclear, and there is a long discussion at the end of the video whether the activity is legal/illegal, although it has existed and operated for many years. Edges such as these, where the land turns to mangrove and creek, are places lying neglected and claimed by people and activities that have to seek space on the fringes away from watchful eyes, also where the things and dirt that are not seen to belong inside the city and yet are part of it are pushed out. Landfills, dump yards, spaces for leisure, and secret or hidden places for lovers all alternately make claims on the edge between city and outside/nature. The landscape in this video is one of HT lines and garbage of wastes generated by the city and of work that is unacknowledged/ hidden.
The video begins with a bird's eye view of the landscape of Mangalore tile roofs and wooden trusses. Firemen and onlookers perched on the surrounding ridges direct the jets of water into the burning rooms below.
The camera moves over the skyline of chimneys, Mangalore tile roofs of chawls, and old apartment buildings through the smoke
The view shifts to the alley, beneath the smoking roof, flooded with water from the firehoses; people wade through. At the door of a home, a woman bewildered and shocked caught at the threshold of the burnt home, is being consoled by a boy and another woman. Firemen walk through the debris and ash investigating.
Another home, and boys climb over the branch of a tree and roof to look inside.
A man and woman crying as they watch firemen hose down the charred and peeled walls of the room inside, with some remnants of the ladder and steel pots and pans among the ash.
In the alley outside, a crowd of firemen and onlookers has gathered. A firefighter puts up a ladder in the narrow alley to access the roof.
The scene shifts again to the inside of the home.
The steel cupboards and utensils, pots, skeletons of beds and ladders and the kitchen platform with its steel rack and neatly arranged bowls and plates desolate in between the wreckage and ashes.
A huge plume of smoke and flames rises from the middle of the AC sheeting and Mangalore tile roofs of densely packed cluster of houses, at the edge of a vast slum. (Behrampada)
Firemen direct jets of water from across the naala (creek) that edges the slum as the area under fire seems inaccessible to the fire engine.
People quickly wade through the filthy creek from the makeshift settlement; escaping the fire and clearing a path through the floating garbage, passing a small refridgerator, to safety as the fire threatens to consume and spread.
A lot of people have gone up to the surrounding roofs to watch as is usual when a spectacle such as this unfolds.
A man walks across a roof trying to direct a jet into the fire, two firemen take over.
The flames die down and the smoke turns black to white with steam. The roofscape has come alive with groups of people crowding on the ac sheet roofs, and people lean out on terraces.
The space of the fire is now seen, burnt black corrugated sheeting and smoke through which there are still people pouring buckets of water.
There is a crowd of people clearing the area; a boy tosses a split gas cylinder onto a pile of metal racks bent by the heat.
In the clearing, around the houses burned down, people have gathered around to watch as the final jets of water cool down the neighbouring houses.
A huge plume of black smoke rises up into the sky. In the foreground the dense sprawl of a slum, its roofs contiguous and overlapped, and what looks like mangroves in the distance.
Camera zooms into a roof on fire, people running, and standing on the roof surfaces. The roofs become their regular gateway or more ironically 'the fire escape'. At the edge, the road is milling with people.
While on the roof they're directing each other running across. The camera zooms out to silhouette of the slum with people on the roof, helping the fire fighter with a fire hose, on the roof. Black smoke rises and dissolves into the sky.
On the road outside more people have gathered, probably to see and know what is happening inside. From inside the small narrow spaces inside slum it must be impossible to fathom the unfolding events. Only from the roofs and the road in front could you have enough distance or vantage to know or see what's going on.
The fire truck is parked at the edge of the slum, on the road along the creek, People are seen in silhouette on the roof gathered to watch.
Policeman across the creek gestures to someone on the other side where people are gathered and frantic.
The road is seen again with more people gathered or walking, perched on the top of parked trucks to watch.
You see the alley filled with people, and a jet of water being directed at a home on fire.
On the road, a line of people through the crowd that is passing stuff out from the slum tossing it across to each other as fire trucks move slowly through the crowd.
The clip ends with a shot of the roofscape, and smoke rising in the background.
The video begins from inside the fire engine as it follows a plume of smoke over a wide road that stretches out to meet it. The fire is in a place that is filled with things, stacked and stored, slabs of stones, cut and stacked form walls and piles, corrugated sheets and a huge pile of burning rubber. Firemen rush in between and on top of these to unfurl the hose and get to the fire.
Firemen are hosing down a fire in a huge pile of scrap. People have gathered to watch from on top of piles of sacks and roofs.
The fire is at a rubber dump at a creek edge,
Black smoke rises up to the sky, the landscape of work littered with crates, a handcart and trucks. The smoke rolls and twists up filling the sky,
There are piles of scrap, and trucks parked, HT lines and steel towers against the backdrop of the creek and residential towers rising in the distance.
Thick black billowing smoke is usually a sign of something highly flammable burning ferociously and this nature of smoke is expected from a rubber dump.
edge of city
high rise buildings
People in the neighbouring ramshackle homes, are dismantling the tarpaulin, bamboo and corrugated sheets and carrying them out of the fires way. There is a huge shout as a group of people signal to each other and collectively push a truck out.
Fire Marshal (FM): At 7:30 there was a message in the control room and fire engines and water tankers were promptly dispatched to the site. When we heard of the extent, then 8 trucks and 8 takers were deployed immediately. There fire has taken place in a dump yard where rubber scrap, sloth sacks, were being dumped. The fire will take one or two days to be put out, but will not be allowed to spread. The cause of the fire is not known. There will be an investigation by our officer who after enquiry will ascertain the cause.
Journalist: What is the area?
FM: The area is 200 metres by 100 metres, It is a rubber dump with rubber scrap weighing almost 30T, sutali, and cloth scrap. A huge amount of water will be needed.
Journalist: Any casualty?"
FM: No casualities reported so far, One of our officers fell down while running and is being treated
Journalist:Were the godowns illegal?
FM:We don't know that yet
Journalist" But there was a fire reported here two months ago and it seems that a notice had been served to the godowns?
FM: Legality and illegality are issues for the ward office and police to handle. Our job is to put out the fire and inform the ward office to enquire into these matters. Fires are frequent here as there is always a huge amount of rubber scrap that collects. Once or twice every year a fire breaks out. We inform the police whenever there is a fire
Journalist: Has there been any action?
FM: There has been some action. The extent of dumping has reduced. Before, 15 years ago fires would break out every fifteen days.
The Fire Marshal in charge issues a statement to the press in Marathi