Fireworks ban rolled out to reduce blaze dangers

08:33, February 16, 2011      

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Fire chiefs have tightened the capital's restrictions on where people can set off fireworks during Lantern Festival, it was announced on Monday.

Eight more locations were added to the banned list by the municipal government ahead of Thursday in a bid to reduce the number of holiday blazes.

Teams of officials from the fire prevention bureau, police, neighborhood committees and property companies will patrol the "no-fly zones" throughout the day to warn offenders, said Liu Haiyan, a press officer for the city fire department. Banners will also be put up to alert residents.

Those caught lighting fireworks in restricted zones face fines of up to 500 yuan or even three days in detention, he warned.

Fireworks and firecrackers caused almost 200 blazes across the capital during this year's Spring Festival celebrations, a 106-percent increase on 2010.

Fireworks explosions also killed two people and injured 409 other between Feb 2 and 8.

The new locations mainly include densely populated areas and tall buildings, including those housing television stations and newspapers.

On Lantern Festival in 2009, a fire started by fireworks raged for six hours in a tower on the CCTV complex in Beijing. One firefighter died and eight others were injured. Since then, 71 people have been punished for the incident, with one person receiving a prison sentence of seven years.

Liu said the bureau will be on red alert on Lantern Festival this year, with all 7,000-plus firefighters on 24-hour standby.

"Although the recent snowfall has reduced the risk to some extent, we are still under great pressure," ha said. "Thursday is the last day of the (lunar new year) holidays when people can set off fireworks and firecrackers."

Zi Xiangdong, a spokesman for public security bureau, said two helicopters used on Feb 2 and 7 will patrol the skies on Thursday in case of emergencies.

Fireworks sellers, on the other hand, are busy promoting their stock by offering discounts around 30 percent. One sales point in Chaoyang district was cutting prices by as much as 40 percent.

The owner, who did not want to be identified, said sales this year have been the worst for five years. "I used to sell almost all my stock but there is still 300 boxes left now," she said, adding that she expects a rush for Lantern Festival.

Although snow was forecast for Wednesday night, Thursday's weather is expected to be clear and sunny.

By Wu Wencong, China Daily

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