Proposal to buy costly firefighting helicopter faces opposition

Update: April, 11/2016 - 21:30
A high-rise building in HCM City’s District 1 caught fire in early February. – Photo
Viet Nam News -

HCM CITY (VNS)  HCM City’s Fire Prevention and Fighting Police Department has asked the city authority to purchase a firefighting helicopter worth VNĐ1 trillion (US$44.8 million) to tackle high-rise fires in the city.

Trần Thanh Châu, deputy director of the department, said the purchase of such a helicopter was necessary to stamp out fires in high-rise buildings and areas that could not be accessed by fire trucks.

Currently, fire trucks are equipped with ladders measuring 72 metres, equivalent to the 18th storey of a high-rise building.

Châu said the helicopter was among the modern equipment needed by the city to improve firefighting activities and ensure people’s safety.

The proposal has received a great deal of opposition from experts.

Colonel Nguyễn Thế Từ, former head of the Firefighting Prevention and Control University, said many countries have used helicopters for fighting fires in forests and for rescue work.

With high-rise buildings, helicopters can only rescue people stranded on the roof but cannot stamp out fires as they do not have a container for carrying water.  

Từ said some countries, such as Australia and Indonesia, had a firefighting helicopter equipped with a water container with a capacity of 4-5cu.m., but it was mainly used to stamp out fires in forests or in low-storey buildings in residential areas.

“No country in the world uses helicopters for fighting fires in high-rise buildings. It doesn’t work,” he said.

Từ said Việt Nam currently had no specific plans to use helicopters to stamp out fires in high-rise buildings. In HCM City, where residences are crowded together and many houses are located far from the main road, smaller-sized firefighting equipment was effective.

Ngô Văn Xiêm, former deputy head of the university, said that apart from the cost of the helicopter, the city would have to spend money on parking spots, hiring a pilot, and on maintenance work for the vehicle.

“It will be a big waste,” he said, adding that this amount of money should be used to upgrade regular firefighting equipment.

Experts said the city should carefully reconsider the plan to buy helicopters due to its ineffectiveness and high cost.

Figures from the department showed that some 1,650 accidents occured last year because of fires, explosions and rescue events, with eight deaths and 46 injuries recorded.  VNS