Firemen did not activate alarms

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2011, 12:00am

Firemen sent to fight a blaze in Cheung Sha Wan last year, including one who died, did not activate their personal alarms before they entered the scene of the fire, an inquest heard yesterday.

The Coroner's Court is looking into the death of senior fireman Yeung Chun-kit, 47.

The fire broke out at Everprise Knitters on the fifth floor of Lai Cheong Factory Building on March 8 last year. It was first classified as first alarm but was later raised to fourth.

Yeung was among those sent from various fire stations in Kowloon to fight the blaze.

The court heard that firemen entered the building to search for Yeung at 10.45am but failed to find him. They went in again at 11.40am and found him but could not evacuate him. They brought Yeung out when they re-entered the building at 12.35pm.

The court was told that firemen have to remove a key that activates an alarm on their body before entering the scene of a fire. The key is placed next to a white tag on a board outside.

Lau Kwok-fu, assistant divisional fire services officer responsible for breathing apparatus, said that when activated, the alarm beeps if the fireman wearing it does not move for 20 seconds. If there is no motion for 30 seconds, the alarm goes off at full blast.

This made it easier to locate firemen who were in trouble, Lau said.

He said the keys on the board would indicate how many staff were inside the scene of a fire.

Lau told Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu that when Yeung's breathing apparatus was recovered after the fire, the alarm's key was still attached. However, Yeung's tag was on the board.

Lau said when he arrived at the scene, he found seven tags without corresponding keys on the board and was told that there were likely more than seven firefighters inside the building. He then ordered a headcount, which was completed 50 minutes later.

The three firemen who entered the fire with Yeung testified they had not left their keys on the board.

Senior station officer Tong Yui-cheong said he had not placed his tag or key when he was twice near the scene of the fire.

Yeung's partner, Ng Wai-lam, said the alarm often rang. 'That it rings does not necessarily mean someone is in difficulty,' he said.

Ng said that on the day of the fire, he had lent his breathing apparatus to Tong as there were only four sets on their vehicle while five people needed them. He took one from a separate vehicle.

Ng also said that there was danger in using a rope to attach two partners together in a fire as it could catch on objects and he had never used one in his 13 years of service.

Lau said the department had switched to new, improved breathing apparatuses. This was not because of the fire at Lai Cheong Factory Building.



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