85 Hong Kong hill fires reported during Ching Ming festival three times last year’s number

The largest case was in Fanling, where a blaze tore through 250,000 square metres of hillside

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2017, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 8:03am

A total of 85 hill fires reported on Tuesday – more than three times the number recorded in the same period last year – kept Hong Kong firefighters busy amid the dry weather during the annual Ching Ming grave-sweeping festival.

As the yellow fire danger warning remained in force for about 12 hours on Tuesday, the Government Flying Service deployed helicopters to fight some flames that broke out mainly in the New Territories.

The largest blaze was reported in Yuen Leng, Fanling, where about 250,000 square metres – roughly 35 football fields – of hillside land caught fire shortly before 1pm. Firefighters took about three hours to extinguish the flames, a government spokeswoman said.

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Another hill fire, covering an area of 10,000 square metres, broke out in Tai Yeung Che, Tai Po, at about 10am. It was put out shortly before 11.30am.

The spokeswoman said no helicopters were deployed in both cases.

A helicopter was sent to perform a water drop when about 4,000 square metres of hillside caught fire near Shui Chuen O Estate in Sha Tin at midday.

The blaze was extinguished shortly before 2.45pm.

From 8am to 5pm Tuesday, the Government Flying Service deployed its Super Puma helicopters on 11 water bombing flights in response to 16 hill fires.

No casualties were reported in the incidences, the spokeswoman said.

By 10pm Tuesday, 85 hillside fires had been recorded across the city, the Fire Services Department said.

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There were 26 reports of hill fire during last year’s Ching Ming festival when an amber rainstorm warning signal was in force for nearly three hours.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the yellow fire danger warning – indicating high fire risk – was issued at 6am Tuesday and cancelled 12 hours later.

“It was dry in the afternoon. The relative humidity in many places fell below 60 per cent,” the Observatory said.

Ching Ming festival is one of two annual occasions when people pay respects to their ancestors by sweeping and burning paper offerings at graves. The other event is the Chung Yeung festival.

Additional reporting by Danny Mok