SINGAPORE – The family living in the flat that caught fire at Block 91 Henderson Road has offered its condolences to the family of Corporal Edward H. Go, the firefighter who died while putting out the blaze on Thursday.
Holding back tears, Mr Muhammad Azri Ramlan, 21, who was in the unit when the fire broke out, said on Friday: “It is very sad to know of his death. On behalf of my family, I would like to say sorry to his family for their loss.
“They have a great son – he was an NSF (full-time national serviceman), like me – and he put his life at risk to save others.”
In a statement on Friday night, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said Cpl Go, a 19-year-old NSF firefighter, is the first person from the SCDF to have died during an operation.
The SCDF was alerted to the fire at about 11.10am and when its personnel arrived at the scene, the fire was raging inside the fourth-floor unit of the block in Bukit Merah, and the corridor was filled with smoke.
Firefighters, donning breathing apparatus, had to force their way into the flat.
SCDF said Cpl Go had been part of the first response crew, and had fallen unconscious when putting out the fire in the kitchen area of the flat.
He was taken to Singapore General Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
“SCDF officers, like Cpl Edward, put their lives on the line each time they enter the scene of a fire in order to save others,” said the SCDF.
“SCDF is deeply saddened by the death of Cpl Edward.”
SCDF said in its statement that it is providing Cpl Go’s family with its fullest support, and that with the family’s agreement, it will be holding a ceremonial funeral to honour him.
When The Straits Times visited the block on Friday morning, the corridor was charred and workers were fixing the wiring hanging outside.
Several SCDF officers appeared to be inspecting the unit, while others wheeled away large waste bins filled with burnt debris.
Mr Azri said there were seven people living in the two-room rental flat – Mr Azri and his wife Sri Ayshah Putri Jamari, their seven-month-old baby, Ms Ayshah’s 13-year-old sister and 16-year-old brother, as well as Ms Ayshah’s parents.
Only Mr Azri, Ms Ayshah and her sister were in the flat when the fire broke out – her parents were at work and her brother was not at home, while their baby was at an infant care centre.
Mr Azri said he and Ms Ayshah were sleeping in the bedroom of their flat on Thursday morning when they were roused by the strong smell of smoke.
He woke up to find the room quickly being enveloped by bright orange flames, and rushed out of the flat with his wife and her sister.
“We were at the front gate when we realised we didn’t have a key, so I went back inside the room to (get mine). Then we ran out, told our neighbours that the house was on fire, and I called the police,” said Mr Azri, who spoke to ST in a flat on the 10th floor of the same block.
The family was moved into the flat on Thursday night following the fire.
“It was a traumatic experience. The heat was unbearable, and the smell of smoke is still fresh in my mind. Luckily, our baby was not at home,” added Mr Azri, who was on medical leave from his national service as he had a fever from a booster jab.
He is currently waiting for his national service posting.
Student Noor Shahefan, 18, and his nine-year-old sister were using their mobile phones at home – one of the units on the fourth floor – when the fire happened.
He opened the main door upon smelling smoke and saw thick fumes billowing in from the corridor.
Realising there was a fire, he asked his sister to wait in the toilet as he covered the gap under the door with a damp cloth.
Mr Shahefan said: “It was my first time experiencing a fire in real life... I also feel sad (for the firefighter who died). My prayers are with him and his family.”
Mr Azri and his family returned home on Friday morning to salvage whatever they could. He said: “I only managed to take my baby’s pram. The rest of the items, including my important documents and our marriage certificate, are all lost.”
His father-in-law Jamari Yatno was visibly upset and in tears when ST visited their temporary home on Friday.
ST understands that six households on the fourth floor, including Mr Azri’s and Mr Shahefan’s, have temporarily moved to other vacant units in the same block or nearby, while clean-up and repair works take place.
Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira, who oversees the Henderson-Dawson ward, visited residents in the block, along with constituency director Wee Soh Hong, on Friday.
Community and grassroots volunteers also helped to provide items such as mattresses and food to the households that had moved into temporary shelter.
SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap extended his deepest condolences on behalf of the SCDF to Cpl Go’s family.
“Cpl Edward was bravely carrying out his duty to save lives and property,” he said.
“He was a courageous firefighter who was well-liked by his supervisors and colleagues. He was highly committed and dedicated to his duties. We are all very sad, and will always remember him.”