Firefighters should in future clear brush around grave sites and install below-ground offerings burners to reduce the risk of hillfires during the Ching Ming Festival, residents and environmentalists said yesterday. They were angry that little had been done to prevent the annual rash of fires caused by burning offerings. But a spokesman for the Fire Services Department said authorities had done all they could to educate the public about fire hazards during the festival to honour their ancestors. An unusually high number of hillfires broke out this year, with 254 from Saturday to Monday, mostly on Sunday, the main festival day. Last year's figures were unavailable yesterday, but the spokesman said there had been many more fires this year. An abundance of dry vegetation as well as wind and hot weather conditions over the weekend were blamed in addition to the negligence of some worshippers. On Lamma Island alone the number of fires was double that of last year. Residents who witnessed blazes occurring in the same locations every Ching Ming said they were tired of the Fire Services Department not doing enough to prevent them. 'It's an accident waiting to happen. It's just luck that no one has been hurt. Many hikers come to Lamma during the festival and when fires break out, they don't necessarily know the quickest way out,' said Lamma resident Liz Gower. Plato Yip Kwong-to, assistant director of Friends of the Earth, said officials should do more than just rerun their annual pre-festival television and radio fire danger announcements. 'They should mobilise the community. If the departments do not have adequate manpower, people are willing to volunteer their time to do weeding and clear brush to create fire-breaks around the grave sites,' he said.