Fireman perishes in raging inferno

Top News | Phoenix Un 22 Jun 2016

A senior firefighter died after he entered a raging inferno at a factory storage building in Kowloon Bay yesterday.

Firefighters had been battling the fourth alarm fire at SC Storage on the third floor of Amoycan Industrial Centre on Ngau Tau Kok Road since 11am yesterday and by 11pm it was still not under control.

Thomas Cheung Yiu-sing, 30, a senior station fire officer attached to Tseung Kwan O station, and a colleague were the first breathing apparatus team to enter the burning scene - believed to cover 40 meters by 60 meters - when the heat and smoke intensified, suddenly forcing them to retreat.

His colleague managed to get out and when he could not see Cheung he immediately raised the alarm. More than 10 teams of firefighters were sent to look for Cheung and he was found minutes later.

He was rushed to United Christian Hospital and certified dead at 9.54pm.

Cheung is survived by a wife and their four-month-old baby boy.

"Officer Cheung was fighting fire with another of our colleagues when the heat and smoke intensified greatly and suddenly," said director of Fire Services Lai Man-hin.

"When his colleague withdrew from the scene, he discovered that Officer Cheung was not with him. He reported to us and we started the urgent rescue mechanism immediately."

Lai refused to comment when asked about reports that some firemen were so angry after the death of Cheung that they beat their superior up.

Cheung graduated from St Paul's College and was admitted to the University of Hong Kong. He joined the Fire Services Department in 2010 and married four year later. His son was born this February.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, along with Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok and Secretary for the Civil Service Clement Cheung Wan-ching, accompanied by Lai, went to the hospital last night.

Leung said: "We are very sad for the deceased, and we'll assist his wife and his family to get past difficulties."

He said three firefighters who were sent to hospital had been discharged while another officer was stable and under observation overnight.

One of the four suffered from smoke inhalation while the other three were treated for dehydration.

Deputy Director of Fire Services Daryl Lee Kin-yat said when Cheung was found he was unconscious.

"We gave him first-aid treatment immediately, then sent him to the hospital," Lee said.

The fire broke out at 11am and was upgraded to a third alarm at 12.14pm before being raised to a fourth alarm at 7.46pm. Four hoses, 30 fire engines and two aerial ladders, and eight breathing apparatus teams were deployed.

Two people in the storage company were rescued while four escaped by themselves.

Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer Poon Wai-lun said the large fire area and narrow corridors added to difficulties in controlling the blaze.

"We encountered some difficulties due to the large area on the entire third floor with 200 mini-storage units. All the units were locked by the occupants."

Firemen had to break the locks of each cubicle.

The SC Storage website claimed that there were fire prevention systems in all its storage areas, but initial findings showed that old industrial buildings had no water sprinkler system, Poon said.

The 66-year-old Amoycan Industrial Centre is legally exempted from installing the sprinkler system.

Kam Siu-man, a comic writer, lost his collection of manuscripts, old comics and gramophone records.

"These will have all been burnt to ashes, and not exist any more," he wrote on his Facebook.

The founder of SC Storage, Kevin Shee Kin-heng, said the tenancy agreement did not include fire insurance and he had reminded customers to buy insurance themselves.

However, SC Storage may consider compensating victim customers, he said.

Chan Kin-por, legislator of the insurance constituency, said there is no specific legislation for regulating mini- storage units.

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