OPINIONS In-depth: What makes firefighters heroes of our times?

OPINIONS

In-depth: What makes firefighters heroes of our times?

By Han Xiaomeng | People's Daily app

22:01, April 03, 2019

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In a battle against a forest fire in Muli County in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China's Sichuan Province, 27 firefighters and three locals lost their lives. 

Wang Xin, a firefighter who survived the blast, said the fire came so suddenly that trees on the ridge were burned down within seconds.

The nation's firefighting force was transferred in 2018 from the People's Armed Police to the Ministry of Emergency Management. In Sichuan, different places organized their firefighting teams according to the local conditions.

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This aerial photo taken on April 1, 2019 shows the site of a forest fire in Yalongjiang Township of Muli County, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China's Sichuan Province. (Photo: Xinhua)

Firefighters require a high degree of proficiency. They can only participate in operations after going through lengthy professional training. Newcomers who lack experience can only be responsible for actions like guarding the scene.

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Firefighters put out a forest fire in Qinyuan County, North China's Shanxi Province, on March 30, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)

For years, firefighters in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Region have been noted for their professionalism. They've participated in many operations to put out forest and grassland fires. In 2018, the local team supported operations to extinguish a forest fire in Yajiang country in Ganzi prefecture.

"Despite their professionalism and abundant experience, no one can ensure 100 percent safety," said the deputy director of the office for fire prevention and control in forest and grassland in Sichuan. Facing a fire means facing danger, especially coupled with variable winds in mountainous areas.

Taking risks to keep all of us safe

Among the 27 firefighters who sacrificed their lives, one was born in the 1980s, 24 in the 1990s and two after the year 2000. The youngest was only 19 years old.

Jiang Feifei, who died in the blaze, posted a photo on his social media account in which he was leaving for the scene of the fire. He planned to marry his fiancee this September.

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Photo: screenshot of Jiang Feifei's wechat moments

Zhang Hao, squadron leader of the team, filled his social media with photos of different operations he participated in and the military uniforms he wore in past few years.

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Photo: screenshot of Zhang Hao's WeChat moments

Many of the young firefighters had unfulfilled plans to go to school, get married or buy houses for their family members. These youngsters dedicated their lives to the safety and interests of the people and the nation, leaving a list of unfulfilled dreams.

Netizens across the country paid tribute to the lost firefighters via social media. Xichang citizens sang military songs to the heroes and placed wreaths to commemorate them. These heroes fulfilled their duties so that people could live a better life.

Extinguishing the fire puts people's lives first

Currently the forest in Sichuan Province totals around 18.67 million hectares of land, the fourth largest area in China. The forest coverage rate is 38.83 percent. That's why a local official emphasized that Sichuan is a key area to preventing forest fires in China.

The number of counties and districts prone to forest fires account for 23.18 percent of the total number nationwide.

Due to low precipitation and strong winds brought by cold air, some regions in southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces are at high risk of forest fires this week, the National Meteorological Center said Monday.

Across the world, fires not only pose danger to the ecosystem but also a deadly threat to the safety and security of people in nearby areas, said a retired official surnamed Long who once served at the office responsible for fire prevention and control in forest and grasslands in Sichuan. Long added that most residential areas were interlocked with forests. Once a blaze rages out of control, the consequences can be catastrophic.

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(Photo: the cover)

Take Muli County as an example, whose forest coverage rate is 67.3 percent, one of the highest among all the counties across China. Fires can spread quickly, cutting off contact with villages at risk. 

This danger could explain the reason for putting out a fire, as opposed to simply letting it burn out, a standard international practice. It would be incorrect to say that foreign countries choose to let fires burn out and do not take risky measures so that fewer firefighters risk their lives. All over the world, evacuating local residents, controlling traffic and dispatching personnel to intervene is how local governments respond.  Recognizing and locating a fire, then warning and evacuating people, is half of the battle in fire suppression efforts.

A popular saying online says there's no such thing as a peaceful and good world. We enjoy peace and good times because someone else has taken on the burden to make this happen. Firefighters accept this burden as they take on a challenging job filled with potential danger and risk.

The government will make more efforts to give safety guarantees to firefighters. We should also keep their names in our hearts and never forget their sacrifices.

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