Fire-fighters on high alert as Beijing fireworks season approaches

08:15, January 31, 2011      

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Beijing fire authorities Sunday announced their highest level of alert as the city approached an unusually dry and windy Spring Festival holiday and its traditional fireworks frenzy.

More than 7,000 fire-fighters would be on duty across the city on the New Year Eve (Feb. 2) and the fifth day of the lunar month, said Luo Yuan, spokesman for Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau of Fire Protection.

"All the fire-fighters will have uniforms on and be on high alert, as fireworks shows are expected to peak during the two periods," said Luo.

The Chinese set off fireworks and crackers during the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, in a custom that originated to expel evil spirits and bad luck. But the festivities cause misery every year, with injuries and fires ignited by sparks.

In 2009, an illegal fireworks display kindled a blaze that consumed a building of the newly-built headquarters of China Central Television (CCTV), killing one fireman and injuring another eight.

Fearing this year's prolonged drought might increase the fire threat, community workers in Beijing are campaigning against unchecked fireworks displays.

"Several rounds of inspections have been conducted to remove risks from residential areas, but we're still calling on people to shun crackers in such dry weather," said Xicheng District community worker Hou Yixiang.

On Saturday, 1,852 outlets licensed to sell fireworks opened in Beijing.

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