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Residents say firemen botched Yangyang blaze

Apr 18,2005
Hundreds of residents of Yangyang county, Gangwon province, who lost their homes in forest fires early this month are blaming firefighter negligence for the extensive blazes, and say they are considering suing the government.
The residents, who have formed an organization to press their concerns, say forest service helicopters failed to completely put out the fires in Yangyang late on April 4 before moving on to Goseong. The second wave of fires on April 5 destroyed more than 200 houses in Yangyang, and most of historic Naksan Temple.
Park Jung-seo, an official at the Korea Forest Service, defended the decision to fly the helicopters to Goseong. “In the case of wild fires, helicopters are only supposed to put out major blazes,” said Mr. Park. “When the helicopters flew over to Goseong, all the big fires had been extinguished in Yangyang.”
He said firefighters on the ground should have taken care of small fires after the helicopters left. According to residents, that did not happen.
Forest Service head Cho Yon-hwan said it was the strong winds, not the lack of helicopters, that allowed the fires to spread.


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