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Home / singapore / Neredi, bomb attacks, demolition of buildings: Born in the fire brigade 75 years ago, the former SCDF officer still volunteered in one

Neredi, bomb attacks, demolition of buildings: Born in the fire brigade 75 years ago, the former SCDF officer still volunteered in one

SINGAPUR: It was in the afternoon of March 10, 1965, and 21-year-old Yunnos Shariff could feel his foot under his feet.

As the fire alarm sounded in the central fire department at Hill Street, a stronger alarm sounded in his head.

"I said," Something's wrong! "I told the boys that they must be careful, this is just the beginning," recalled Mr. Yunnos, now a lively 75-year-old.

Closed on the second floor of the control room of the fire station, Mr. Yunnos ordered his men to send three firefighters.

His instructions followed – firefighters began to climb into their bright red cars, preparing for a day forever dirty in the Singapore history.

Three victims would lose their lives this day because of a bomb attack on MacDonald House and more than 30 injured.

As Mr. Yunnos looked out the window, one of the men who would mobilize drew a familiar figure – that was his father.

"In the beginning, I was so scared (because of his security)," said Mr. Yunnos, who joined the Singapore Fire Brigade (the predecessor of Singapore's Civil Defense Forces) in 1962. "But then, I thought:" part of his duty and my duty is to send firefighters.

There was not much time to think about these fears as people in the control room began to be overwhelmed with calls.

"Not only is the sound of the alarm, the police called and the public started calling us without stopping," said Mr. Yunnos.

"It was messy, noisy – there were so many calls."

A few hours later, Mrs. Yunnos's father returned to the station unharmed, but the two of them never talked about the events that took place on that day.

He said, "I did not dare to ask him about it because I was honored."


Not only did Mr Yunnos grow up in a fire brigade home, he was born on one.

The fourth of 13 children, was raised in the Geylang fire station and stayed in a one-bedroom apartment in the station station.

Discipline was taken seriously at the station, which concerned not only firefighters but also their children.

Yunnos Shariff (2)

Numerous old photographs of Mr. Yunnos are currently exhibited in the Cultural Heritage Gallery. (Photo: Matthew Mohan

"Children were not allowed to play because there was no playground, the only place we could play in the yard, but that yard was used for firefighters who had exercises," said Mr. Yunnos.

"Well, what do we do, we stayed at home." Every cell was the same except Queensway, where there was a soccer field where children could play. "

The family then moved to the central fire brigade where Mr Yunnos first witnessed the dangers that firefighters faced on a daily basis.

To date he recalls how the members of the fire brigade returned to the station during the riots by Maria Hertogh in 1950.

"When the cops returned to number 3 (Major Pump 3), I saw the blood on the shirts."

But he has always been honored with great respect.

"In front of my block, when I opened the door, I could see the yard and firefighters who practiced," said Mr. Yunnos. "It was not just like" Wow, "but I said when I was growing up, I wanted to be here as someone."

However, things could have been quite different to working better in school.

"I wanted to be a lecturer so I could join the parliament, but sad to say I got a low rating … only the third grade that was not enough," he said.

"If I had a second or first grade, I would not be here, I would be in Parliament!"


After completing his training earlier than expected for the knowledge of a variety of equipment and exercises, Mr. Yunnos spent less than two years as a firefighter.

"I attended only 60 firefighting calls … most of them had been infected a roller pin fires along the highway, one was a fire in Pula, and one was in the Kallang gas industry. "

"Firefighters we did not carry with water," he said. "When we got to the fire, we would have a problem – where to get the water?"

Without a fire hydrant, firefighters had to rely on suction equipment to extract water from other water bodies, such as rural wells.

"We cut tree branches so we could use them as fire fighters," added Mr. Yunnos. "But that was just for healing a roller pin fires, not for home fires! "

Yunnos Shariff (3)

Mr. Yunnos bought this model of $ 240 for firefighters at Robinson two days before the fire in 1972. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

Mr. Yunnos went to work in the fire fighting center control room, where he was the first telephone operator before he continued to control a dozen men as he did during the bombing of MacDonald House.

In the days after the call was received, the operators had to record details on a piece of paper, lower them and send them down with a hollow leg. It would produce sound, warning the firefighters on the ground floor that they needed at the scene.

"In the control room in addition to co-ordination with firefighters, I had another job: for example, all firefighters who wanted to leave, special days, had to record them."

Promulgated as a dangerous commercial inspector – a type of executor, the next blueprint of Mr Yunnos with a major incident would be in 1972 when he was on the scene day after Robinson's department store fired.

Nine people were killed in the fire and Mr. Yunnos recalls the places of total destruction.

An unusual destiny was a few days earlier in the department store to buy a fire truck model for his personal collection.

"The manager recognized me because I was there two days earlier," he explained. "I told him my job was to examine the cause of the fire."

"The whole floor collapsed because it was made of wood, the elevator cage was also made of wood," he said. "Going down to the basement was not easy, there was no elevator, the staircase burned."

Six years later, Mr. Yunnos would return to the control room, this time in charge of the section or three rotators, mobilizing firefighters to handle the collapse of the New World hotel.

"In the control room we had a headache, where can we get more men?" he recalled.

"We have to call all firefighters who are out of service, remember them. There were so many calls, even the police shouted at us:" You have to send firefighters right away! More firefighters! "


After more than four decades of service, Mr. Yunnos retired at the age of 60.

He spent several years at home, having a hobby – collecting fireworks related souvenirs.

"I got patches, caps, everything that belonged to the fire department I would gather," he said. "I started from the youth when I stayed in the quarters.

"Every month I ask my dad if he could save some of his money, because I wanted to buy (these things). He would have me across the road and then if I got there, I would say that I want this and that. He said," If you want them , the next time you start working, you buy them. "

"When I started working, I started buying them."

Yunnos Shariff (4)

Yunnos Shariff polishes the nozzle. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

But when SCDF called for volunteers, Mr. Yunnos could not resist.

Today, he helps in the Civil Protection Gallery as a guide. As a volunteer in the Assistant Civil Defense unit, he is now organizing tours of visitors and organized groups.

"They will ask things like: what kind of fire? For overseas firefighters, that's different, they want to exchange opinions, experiences," said Mr. Yunnos. "The best part is to give us patches, that's the time when I collect patches."

Mr Yunnos is currently the oldest SCDF volunteer and performs more than 100 hours a month, which is far more than the minimum required of 16 hours. He also donated many of his souvenirs to the gallery – his photographs, patches, firefighting models and equipment.

"One of the rooms at home is full of these things and that's why I decided to contribute to the museum," he explained helplessly.

A few minutes after he had finished talking to reporters, fascinating Mr. Yunnos was seen on his chair, polishing fire extinguishers.

This is Monday, the day when the gallery is usually closed for maintenance, and although it is not necessary, the veteran insists on wearing cotton gloves and is quietly engaged in work without any hassle.

"They wanted to get a contractor, I did not tell them," he said. "We can do this too."

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