[EDITORIALS]Why the fight against fire failedThe damage from the forest fires in Yangyang and Goseong in Gangwon province is overwhelming.
More than 450 hectares (1,100 acres) of forests were lost, and the 1,300-year-old Naksan Temple burned down. Furthermore, hundreds of residents in Yangyang lost their homes in the raging flames.
Of course, the strong winds did not make it any easy for the firefighters, but the indifference by the national and local governments and the lack of proper equipment only exacerbated problems.
The response from the national government to the fires was anything but organized. It was not until 20 hours after a fire broke out in Yangyang that the government held an emergency meeting.
It is obvious from the speed of their reaction that the officials were not aware of the magnitude of the fires. If they were, they would have mobilized the military much sooner and prevented further damage. The need for a nationwide disaster management system is greater than ever to do a better job of crisis control.
When the strong winds died down, helicopters worked hard to keep the Yangyang fires from reaching Mount Seorak National Park. The Forestry Service has 41 helicopters but only two of them can fly in winds over more than 33 mph.
This means 39 of the helicopters were useless when the winds were blowing around 56 mph earlier in the day. The Forestry Service needs to obtain more helicopters that can handle the strong winds so that we can better protect our forests from fires.
If the cost is a concern, the government should consider renting them from other countries during months when forest fires are frequent.
Korea’s east coast has lost nearly 30,000 hectares of forests to the fires in the last decade. Such fires have become annual events in the area, and there is much more to be done in preventing the fires than simply acquiring the necessary equipment.
Firefighting crews must receive extensive training in how to approach and manage forest fires.
When restoring the burned forests, forestry officials should consider planting more broad-leaved trees and forgo the flammable conifers. Finding the causes of the forest fires is also critical. It will be difficult to establish preventive measures unless the causes are known.