Flying service pilots will forgo the festivities to save lives As families across Hong Kong celebrate Christmas, Victor Lau Wing-tao will be ready to help if anyone gets into trouble. As he has on countless public holidays in the past nine years, the Government Flying Service helicopter pilot will be on call to fly out if people need rescuing or yet another hill fire breaks out in a country park. 'I wish I could see the real Santa Claus this Christmas,' the 36-year-old pilot says. 'I did rescue a fake one in 2002. I had to fly that Santa Claus from Mui Wo to Central.' Mr Lau cannot pick out his most memorable rescue, saying each one is a challenge. And he finds hill fires - a big ingredient of a government pilot's work - 'heartbreaking'. He was off duty when a big fire broke out on Lantau near Discovery Bay on November 26 but could see the flames from his nearby home. 'It was heartbreaking to see the trees being burned,' he said. 'It's so hard to make one grow.' Colleague Cody Wong Yiu-hong, a 10-year veteran pilot, recalled fighting the hill fire in the Pat Sin Leng range on December 4. 'All the eight peaks were on fire,' he said. Worse were fires that broke out on the Ching Ming and Chung Yeung festivals, sparked by careless grave-sweepers' burnt offerings. 'Many different places were on fire. All I could see from the helicopter was the whole city covered by smoke,' he said. While most of the city shuts down during typhoons, the airborne rescuers face some of their most perilous tasks. 'In 1999, I went to rescue someone from the sea when typhoon signal No 10 was hoisted. That's why my brother always wants me to take an office job, because he thinks it is less dangerous,' the 32-year-old pilot said. The tough work doesn't decrease Mr Wong's enthusiasm for his job, and he regards the aerial views as a bonus. 'The scenery is much prettier when seen from above, especially Victoria Harbour,' he said. 'At night time there's no light in the country parks, yet if there's a full moon, you can see the landforms and sea clearly.' The flying service is now sharing some of those views with children in an effort to educate them about Hong Kong's unique geography and teach them to value it. A new book, Over the Rainbow - produced by the service and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department - uses everyday objects to help children understand the shapes and appearance of the landforms. Cheung Chau is represented by a dumb bell and forests are described as looking like broccoli. 'There is no such children's book about Hong Kong geography. The local landforms are so special, especially looking from the top,' said Fiona Lock Nga-yi, Country Parks Ranger Officer of the agriculture department. The book is aimed at kindergarten and primary students and 3,000 will be sold from December. All proceeds from the book will be used to promote country park safety.