Tunnel vision with road-rail fire trucks

Local | Yupina Ng 19 Feb 2016

The Fire Services Department has bought two appliances to handle tunnel incidents on the Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link.

The vehicles, imported from Austria, are the first rail and road fire appliances. They can shoot water up to 65 meters.

Director of Fire Services David Lai Man-hin said the HK$22 million vehicles were specifically designed for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and will be stationed at Pat Heung Fire Station.

"The department has acquired equipment such as the rail-road fire appliance with the funding sought in 2013 to cater for the future railway development of Hong Kong and the needs for emergency services that may arise," Lai said.

"Pat Heung Fire Station is near to the express rail link's emergency unit in Shek Kong, where vehicles can enter the tunnel quickly."

A demonstration was held yesterday at the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy in Tseung Kwan O during which it took no more than one minute to change the tires to steel wheels for use on rails.

The pump mode and rescue mode carry a 3,000-liter and 1,500-liter water tank respectively.

The appliances can travel at a speed of 100km/ h on the road and 60km/h by rail.

Special equipment for tunnel fires includes a ventilator system, gas detection system, thermal imaging system and bumper monitor.

Six firefighters have been trained to drive and operate the vehicles. The department aims to train at least five firefighters in each team in areas such as Mai Po and Yuen Long.

Lau, meanwhile, said the department is also considering purchasing warm hoods for its ambulance officers working in extreme cold weather.

That is a result of the chaos on Tai Mo Shan last month when the temperature dropped to zero degrees Celsius and dozens of people who wanted to see frost were stranded on the peak and needed rescue. The department was at the time questioned on whether its gear should be upgraded to cope with the freezing conditions.

"Some of our colleagues said their faces and necks were numb from the cold during the operation," he said.

Lau added that the department will seek overseas training on rescue operations under extreme weather.

Around 34,320 fire calls were received last year, according to the department's figures, representing a decrease of 5.5 percent.

The calls were mainly about unwanted alarms (24,811), false alarms (3,179) and overheated stoves (1,563).

Some 23 people died in fire incidents, similar to 2014, with 320 injured and 9,254 rescued.

"The more serious cases included a third-alarm fire arising from a series of explosions at a vehicle repair workshop in Wong Tai Sin, blazes at recycling storages sites in Wang Toi Shan and Tsat Sing Kong, Pat Heung and a vessel fire at the Shau Kei Wan typhoon shelter," Lai said.

The department will recruit 580 fire and ambulance staff this year.

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