Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Complaints about firefighting

The Joongang Ilbo has a short article about angry residents of Yangyang county complaining about firefighter negligence.

As you may remember, the fire was almost out around 11:00am, Tuesday, April 5. Apparently, the helicopters then went to a different fire (I believe in or near the DMZ) and everybody relaxed...just in time for the fire to spread wildly and burn Naksan temple, and, more importantly to the residents involved, 200 homes.

The residents blame the helicopter crews for leaving and the crews blame the on-the-ground fire fighters and the wind.

A spokesman for the Korea Forest Service stated that helicopters are only used to combat the major fires and once they were knocked down, the helicopters were needed more in Goseong. This makes good sense to me. Even a slow moving helicopter can't be expected to have the accuracy needed for small fires. That is when the team of "up to 6,000" firefighters on the ground need to hunt and knock down any hotspots.

Forest fire fighting would seem to be a simple (but dangerous, I'm definitely not saying it isn't dangerous) job. You advance in a line and any place that is too hot to touch needs to be soaked.

It isn't. I was a junior ranger for The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in 1984 and we were constantly reminded about a group a few years previously that had been well equipped and sent to fight a fire and most of them died. Equipping people without training them is almost useless.

I don't know how to fight fires. I don't know if Oranckay does, but he does echo the complaints of the Yangyang citizens who lost their homes.

Seeing the firefighting skills of the soldiers on
television was also depressing, though
obviously every little bit helps. However little.

I guess I agree that someone made a mistake. I saw bus loads of soldiers and many water tankers just parked at Naksan National Park's parking lot. Scores of soldiers were sleeping. I don't blame them for sleeping, they'd been fighting the fire since 11:00pm the previous night and aren't expected to post themselves. However, someone should be held at fault, or at least have really learned something about fires. To be generous, the wind was crazy that day; it shifted around and was ferociously strong. I saw firefighters at two fires with several hundred metres of untouched ground between them; it looked like the fire was really jumping.

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