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Ngau Tau Kok fire

Hong Kong honours 29 firefighters for bravery in battling major industrial blazes

Six medals for bravery and 23 red lanyards awarded for actions during Ngau Tau Kok and Cheong Fat Building fires

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 September, 2016, 12:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 September, 2016, 6:27pm

A total of 29 firefighters have been awarded top honours for their efforts in battling two separate major industrial building fires over the summer, one of which took the lives of a pair of their colleagues.

Fireman Wan Kin-wai will be awarded the Silver Medal for Bravery for his “act of gallantry of an extremely high order displayed” during firefighting and rescue operations at the deadly Amoycan Industrial Centre blaze in Ngau Tau Kok.

This comes two months after firefighters Thomas Cheung and Samuel Hui Chi-kit, both killed in the Amoycan fire, were posthumously awarded the Gold Medal for Bravery, the city’s highest such honour.

According to the government, Wan “devotedly entered the maze-like mini-storages” of the burning industrial building under dangerous circumstances to suppress the fire and search for casualties.

“In the course of retreat, Mr Wan lost contact with his senior station officer partner,” the government gazette said.

“Even though he was injured, he attempted to retrieve his partner under the extremely dangerous situation.” It is understood that the partner in the statement referred to Cheung.

Senior station officer Chu Wai-man and senior fireman Chan Hin-kei were awarded the Bronze Medal for Bravery for their actions in the same Ngau Tau Kok operation.

The duo entered the fire scene to continue a search and rescue operation for Cheung in an “extremely hot environment and zero visibility” and succeeded in moving him to the main corridor.

Senior fireman Ng Chi-hung and firemen Chow Wai-hong and Chan Chun-yin were also awarded bronze medals for entering the fire at Cheong Fat Building in July and successfully rescuing two teenagers from the scene.

A total of 23 personnel, ranking from fireman to assistant divisional officer, were awarded the Chief Executive’s Commendation for Government/Public Service, also known as the red lanyard, for exemplary professionalism and courage in the two fires.

The 29 honours and awards, announced in the government gazette on Thursday, will be presented at the 2016 Honours and Awards Presentation Ceremony next month.

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Fire service work unions welcomed the new wave of commendations, saying it was encouraging and had sent a positive message to all fire crew.

“It definitely boosted our morale as the two major blazes did give a big blow to morale,” Fire Services Officers Association chairman Yang Kin-sang said.

“Many of the fellows were risking their lives to battle the fires. I am glad to see that the department appreciated the utmost efforts they had made.”

Yang added that top management had been keeping in close contact with the firefighters and unions to better understand their needs and seek ways to improve.

It is not uncommon for the department to hand out awards after major operations. Fifteen fire services personnel were awarded a red lanyard after the 2012 Lamma Island ferry collision which killed 39 people.

In late June, a fourth-alarm fire tore through a mini-storage warehouse at the Amoycan Industrial Building in Ngau Tau Kok and was put out after burning for 108 hours. It involved 190 firefighters and rescue workers. Fires are rated on a scale of one to five according to severity.

Operations were hampered by the fact that 200 mini-storages were packed with unknown – and in many cases dangerous – goods divided by metal sheet cubicles that had to be knocked down one by one to extinguish the burning contents inside.

In July, a third-alarm blaze ripped through the Cheong Fat industrial building in Cheung Sha Wan, which housed subdivided units and mini-storage facilities. It was put out after nine hours. A pair of teenage siblings and one firefighter were hospitalised.