A new mountain search and rescue team began operating from Sai Kung Fire Station this month, Station Commander Leung Yau-shing said. This follows adoption of a new policy by the Fire Services Department in response to increased hiking incidents. Sai Kung is one of two stations so far to get the mountain rescue teams.
Commander Leung said the growing popularity of hiking has lead to mountain rescues handled by the station rising to 273 last year. By comparison there were 242 in 2014.
Twenty-seven men, nine per watch, have undergone three weeks of training in rock climbing, abseiling, first aid, navigation in the hills and other skills. This training was conducted at the new Fire and Ambulance Service Academy at Tseung Kwan O. Commander Leung said the men have to be physically fit: during some shifts they will have to do two or three rescues and must cope with fatigue. Five Principal Firemen have trained as leaders of the teams.
The tragic death of Principal Fireman Yau Siu-ming, who fell on Ma On Shan last month while trying to rescue a lost off-duty policeman and his girl-friend, did not involve Sai Kung Station. The operation was handled mainly by the FSD’s New Territories Command.
Commander Leung, who took up his post in January, gave the following statistics showing the work of the Sai Kung station last year:
- FIRES: 191, none serious, no injuries. Causes: cigarettes, matches, candles, cooking accidents, electrical faults.
- SPECIAL SERVICE CALLS: traffic accidents, threatening to jump from height, people falling or collapsing, rescues at sea, animal rescues.
- MOUNTAIN RESCUE CALLS: 273 as stated above.
- AMBULANCE CALLS: 3810
The Sai Kung Fire Station has a complement of 58 firemen and six ambulancemen. One of the Watch Commanders is Madam Chan Tak-lai, who has been working in Sai Kung for two and a half years.
The newest item of equipment is a compact portable pump used to fight fires at sea. If such an event occurs in nearby waters, the pump will be slung onto a marine police launch and taken to the scene. The other equipment at the station are a hydraulic platform, light pumping appliance, mountain search and rescue unit, two village ambulances (small vehicles that can get through narrow streets and alleys) and a fire-fighting speedboat at Hebe Haven.
Commander Leung said the performance pledges are: to respond to building fire calls within six minutes in built-up areas and within nine to 23 minutes in areas of dispersed risks and isolated developments, ambulance response time is expected to be no more than 12 minutes.