Fire motorbikes can even take shortcuts through even smaller alleys to reach a fire faster. — Photo kinhtedothi.vn
HÀ NỘI — The network of deep, tiny alleys running side by side are part of the mysterious beauty of old Hà Nội, but they also pose a death trap for those in flats and houses along them when fire breaks out.
The cobweb alleys, many of which are barely enough for two people to pass side-on, are impossible to reach in an ordinary fire truck.
Then came a simple solution - fire motorbikes. A fire motorbike would look similar to regular motorbikes apart frome two large bags on either side carrying fire extinguishers and tools, and of course, a rider in a firefighter uniform.
“It is an effective firefighting solution for small alleys and streets,” Colonel Nguyễn Văn Thắng, deputy chief of the city Firefighter Police Division No 8 in Hai Bà Trưng District, told the Kinh Tế & Đô Thị (Economy and Urban Affairs) newspaper.
“Fire motorbikes can even take shortcuts through even smaller alleys to reach a fire faster. The bikes are equipped with pump, extinguisher, breaking tools and even respirator masks for residents trapped inside a house,” Thắng added.
The most recent fatal blaze in a Hà Nội alley occurred last September, when flames burned down a seven square metre house on Hàng Giấy Street, killing two people trapped inside. Firefighters struggled to approach the house. Those trapped inside could not escape from the "iron cage" extension they had fled into because it blocked the exit on the rooftop.
Such incidents are not rare in Hà Nội. Statistics by fire police estimate that central Hoàn Kiếm District – where the touristy Old Quarter is located - has up to 1,700 alleys and 30 small streets unreachable by fire trucks. Most of the houses are seriously downgraded an few have emergency exits. This is made worse by the dangerously interlaced power lines hanging everywhere. A police report states that fire trucks cannot drive into 1,200 streets and have no hope of getting into thousands of small alleys.
The difficult urban structure prompted the firefighters to find a new way to deal with the issue. The idea of fire motorbikes was brought out and piloted late last year at three firefighter divisions covering the districts of Hai Bà Trưng, Hoàn Kiếm, Đống Đa and Hoàng Mai.
Having used a fire motorbike to reach a couple of alley fires in Đống Đa District, firefighter Nguyễn Văn Kiên of the Firefighter Police Division No 2 told An Ninh Thủ Đô (Capital’s Security) newspaper that it had proved it was feasible by reducing the time to reach a fire.
The extinguishers used by motorbike firefighters contain only 10 litres of water, but Kiên said they could be connected to household valves for direct water supplies.
Fire motorbikes were much more effective than ordinary fire trucks in alley-filled areas, sub-lieutenant Tạ Tương Trường from the Firefighter Police Division No 8 said, but residents were yet familiar with them and sometimes refused to make way for the rescuers.. — VNS