FIREMEN from Hong Kong may be sent to China to look at the mainland operation in a bid to strengthen co-operation. The idea arose after 15 firemen from Beijing, Xinjiang, Shenyang and Guangdong arrived in the territory for a month late last year. They attended lectures about fire protection and observed locals' fire-fighting and safety inspection work. Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Lau Shu-lam, said: 'We hope to arrange a similar format of exchange. We are thinking of sending firemen to some mainland cities.' He said the idea depended on funding. 'Many people say China has poorer fire fighting facilities. But it's better to have a good driver with a Honda sedan than a poor driver with a Rolls-Royce. We are looking for something worth learning from, like management or operation.' Mr Lau said they were hoping to strengthen ties with Chinese authorities. The Director of Fire Services, Peter Cheung, will lead a delegation on a six-day visit to counterparts in Foshan, Guangzhou and Shantao next Monday. The department suggested enhanced co-operation with the mainland in a report on the first joint fire-fighting exercise with Shenzhen in October last year. During the exercise, 40 Hong Kong firemen and ambulancemen joined 150 mainland counterparts to evacuate 200 people from a mock fire in a Shenzhen factory. Measures suggested in the report, which has been submitted to the Security Branch, included providing a special radio frequency for firefighters from Hong Kong and the mainland to communicate. It also called for a simplification of the immigration and Customs procedures so fire brigades could help in big cross-border incidents. 'This is to ensure we can arrive at scene within six minutes as we have pledged,' Mr Lau said. The department has also suggested mainland counterparts adopt a systematic procedure when deploying breathing apparatus teams. Mr Lau said they had to register firemen's names and impose strict time control when sending staff inside a burning block. Another suggestion was to prepare a bag of basic tools such as axes, so time would not be wasted asking for the items at the scene. 'We also encourage our staff to improve their Putonghua,' Mr Lau said. The only time China asked for assistance from Hong Kong was during a 1993 Shenzhen dangerous goods factory fire. But the request was dropped later. Between June 1994 and last month, 138 people died in blazes in Guangdong.