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September 8, 2010

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Firefighters find easy access

A FIRE at an apartment of an old residential neighborhood in downtown Huangpu District on Sunday highlighted the problem faced by both residents and the city's fire brigade for many years now: the narrow alley leading to the apartment prevented fire engines from reaching the spot.

They had to stop outside the neighborhood and firefighters used pipes measuring more than 400 meters to get access to water and use it to spray on the smoldering structure.

Fortunately, there were no casualties in Sunday's accident though concerns remain over such buildings and their firefighting equipment.

To ensure security for residents, the Shanghai Fire Control Bureau has arranged for more fire stations around such buildings, mainly concentrated in Huangpu, Luwan, Jing'an and Hongkou districts, so that prompt action can be taken and that the speedy response would make up for the time the firefighters may need to get water to the burning site.

Zhou Meiliang, an official with the bureau, told Shanghai Daily yesterday that firefighters can reach any fire scene within these areas in five minutes, while in other areas and districts the distance between a fire station and any accident site would exceed a five-minute's drive.

The districts concerned are putting up sprinklers along the hallways of old buildings. Such equipment, which is rarely seen in ordinary residential buildings, starts spraying water once a fire is spotted and before it spreads to more public areas.

"They are effective in the early stages of the fire," Zhou said, though he admitted they would not be that helpful in case of big blazes.

Zhou said the four districts have been investing several million yuan each year, sometimes up to 10 million yuan (US$1.47 million), to improve fire control facilities at dilapidated houses. They use fire-proof materials when transforming the old buildings' kitchens. Aging wires are also being replaced to prevent accidents.

Besides, some fire stations near old housing areas have been equipped with firefighting motorcycles, which enable firemen to get into such areas more easily with fire extinguishing tools, according to Zhou.


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