Sai Kung’s fire station, looking after the biggest area in Hong Kong, handled 242 mountain rescues, 191 fires and 4,552 ambulance call-outs last year, Station Commander Alfred Tang Wai Kwong, said.
The most dramatic and difficult incident during the year, the Assistant Divisional Officer said, was an attempted rescue of two mainlanders whose sampan capsized off Tai Long Wan. This operation involved 187 firemen, police and Government Flying Service helicopter crews over two and a half days. They tried to find the men who told 999 they were stranded in a cave on Yin Tsz Ngam island.
Six fireboats, a speedboat, a diving tender, “high angle rescue team”, and helicopters never found the men who were later located in Shenzhen by mainland police.
Commander Tang said they did not know what the men were doing in Hong Kong waters. That’s not the Fire Services concern: They will go to the rescue of anyone in distress.
Sai Kung’s fire station is manned by 59 fire personnel, including the station commander (one year in post) and the three watch commanders (one female). There are also six ambulance men. Parked in the station when not on call are one hydraulic platform, one light pumping appliance, one light rescue unit and two village ambulances. The pump appliance and the rescue unit are small, 2.18 metres wide, so they can be driven through village streets. Moored at Hebe Haven Yacht Club is a fire-fighting speedboat.
Sai Kung has a relatively good safety record, the Commander, who is happy to be called Alfred, said. Fires when they happen are usually due to careless handling of cigarettes, matches or candles.
The other causes are cooking accidents and electrical faults. The common special service calls are mountain rescues, landslides or flooding incidents and fallen trees or trees in danger of falling.
On response times, Alfred said, their performance pledge is that they will get men and equipment to a fire in town within six to nine minutes, in remote areas 15 to 23 minutes. Ambulance targeted response time is 12 minutes.