Hero firefighter gave to charity, helped others
At a memorial for Kim Young-soo, a 54-year-old veteran firefighter with 25 years of service killed while fighting a fire in the basement of a warehouse in Incheon on Friday, three people on crutches came on Sunday to pay their respects at Incheon’s Inha University Hospital.
“We came to say for the last time how grateful we are for his care and support for us,” said the three visitors, who were members of an organization for disabled persons in Incheon.
The deceased firefighter has posthumously emerged as a hero and moved many people with the stories of his charitable and voluntary activities. As a testament to his selfless volunteer services, such as visiting welfare centers and orphanages to help those in need as well as elderly people, nearly 2,000 people paid respects at Kim’s memorial.
Kim’s colleagues praised him for his sense of duty and pride as a firefighter.
“He was always the first to enter the site of the fire and the last to leave, after checking that all other fellow servicemen had safely gotten out,” Kim Kwang-gyun, chief firefighter of the Bupyeong Fire Station, told the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Kim was the last man standing at the fire site on Friday as always, but thick smoke and toxic gas engulfed the large basement area and Kim failed to find a way out.”
Kim was found dead at around 2:52 a.m. on Saturday, seven hours after he entered the scene with 100 other fellow servicemen. Authorities said the tank Kim was carrying contained oxygen that would only last 40 minutes.
Kim’s story touched many people after it became known that he donated almost one-third of his monthly salary to charity and carried out voluntary activities with his wife when he was off duty.
“Since his 20s, Kim has sought to reach out to those in need with donations and selfless activities,” said Kim’s fellow firefighter, who had worked with him over 20 years.
“My brother was a very frugal man who didn’t spend much on himself,” said Kim Young-sun, the deceased’s sister. “But when it came to charity, he never hesitated to make contributions.”
The veteran firefighter lived with his elderly mother and took care of her until she passed away last year.
After his mother’s death, Kim married his friend whom he had known since elementary school in October last year. Kim and his wife visited welfare centers and centers for the disabled as part of their continuing voluntary work.
It was reported by fire department authorities that Kim was found dead tightly holding onto his wallet, which had a picture of his wife in it, in one hand and a cell phone in the other.
The fire department promoted him to chief fireman posthumously and held a funeral on Monday at the Bupyeong Fire Station in Incheon with Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil in attendance.
Kim is the sixth casualty recorded among firefighters this year and there are 174 firemen who have been injured while on duty this year. Kim’s body will be buried at Seoul National Cemetery.
By Choi Mo-ran, Kang Jin-kyu [firstname.lastname@example.org]