HONG KONG Toy Centre is buying its own, custom-built fire engine in response to concerns over the dismal fire safety record of factories in southern China. The makers of Playwell toys commissioned the $3.1 million fire engine last year, before the Kader factory fire in Bangkok, which killed more than 180 people in May 1993. The truck, which is due to be delivered next month, will be kept on-site at the Guangzhou factory complex. Industrial fires claimed more than 700 workers' lives in China in the first four months of this year. Of 136 deaths from fire in Guangdong so far this year, 127 were at foreign-owned sites. Playwell general manager Dennis Ku said: ''We wanted to make sure through regular policy to prevent fire but we also wanted the capacity to fight fire.'' He said the company also employed a full-time guard who, among other duties, ensured fire exits were clear at all times. The 20-tonne truck was designed specifically for the 1.1 million-square-foot, 10-storey factory, where 5,500 workers are employed. It is equipped with a hydraulic platform, both water and chemical foam capacity and a 25-foot ladder. ''We bought only one so it had to have all the features we needed,'' said Mr Ku. Richard Winkworth, general manager of Dennis Specialist Vehicles, which built the fire truck, said: ''This is the first time we have ever known of a company comissioning a fire engine.'' Dennis supplies most of the territory's fire engines. Training in the vehicles' use as well as on-site maintenance will be provided by Hong Kong-based Dennis staff when the vehicle is delivered in September. The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers said Hong Kong companies had begun to improve their fire protection standards.