Fire­fight­ing fan ful­fills am­bi­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By SHI XIAOFENG in Hangzhou shixf @chi­

Ever since he was a child, Lou Zhonghua wanted to be a fire­fighter.

“I al­ways felt that driv­ing a fire truck to put out a blaze was amaz­ingly heroic,” said the 50-year-old from Yiwu, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

When he was old enough, Lou ap­plied to join the fire de­part­ment, but his ap­pli­ca­tion was re­jected af­ter he failed the phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion.

He went on to work as a driver for a trans­porta­tion com­pany, un­til 2003 when the vil­lage where he lived re­cruited him as a for­est ranger.

Lou pa­trolled the woods, search­ing for any­thing that might cause a fire. His ded­i­ca­tion and hard work led to him be­ing ap­pointed leader of the for­est fire­fight­ing team when it was es­tab­lished in 2005.

He moved his fam­ily into the woods in order to pa­trol more ef­fec­tively, build­ing a farm with rooms ded­i­cated to the stor­age of fire equip­ment.

He cleared roads through the for­est to give bet­ter ve­hic­u­lar ac­cess and even bought a fire truck with his own money.

His wife, Huang Wuzhen, learned how to fight fires as well, be­com­ing the only fe­male for­est fire­fighter in Yiwu.

“It’s a dan­ger­ous job, but I choose to fight fires with him rather than stay­ing at home wor­ry­ing,” she said.

Their 19-year-old son, Lou Ji­a­jun, has also fol­lowed in his fa­ther’s foot­steps and will be­come a pro­fes­sional fire­fighter af­ter be­ing ac­cepted into the fire de­part­ment ear­lier this year.

In Yiwu, wild­fires are com­mon, es­pe­cially in the win­ter when the weather is dry.

Over the Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­day of 2014, Lou and his fam­ily ex­hausted them­selves putting out fires with a hose, af­ter tra­di­tional fire ex­tin­guish­ers proved in­ef­fec­tive.

“It was very in­con­ve­nient for us to carry fire ex­tin­guish­ers up the moun­tains,” the fa­ther said.

“We had to call the pro­fes­sional fire brigade be­cause it got out of hand.”

This ex­pe­ri­ence con­vinced Lou Zhonghua that he needed his own fire truck, so he used money from a com­pen­sa­tion pay­out to cover the de­posit on the 400,000-yuan ($58,000) ve­hi­cle, which he bought from a seller in Shang­hai.

“The seller was as­ton­ished be­cause no one had ever bought a fire engine other than the of­fi­cial fire brigades,” he said.

The seller, moved by Lou’s story, de­cided to give him a dis­count on the truck.

But it was still an ex­pen­sive pur­chase, and the cou­ple has to cover the costs of main­te­nance and fuel on their own.

Nei­ther of them re­grets the de­ci­sion though, ac­cord­ing to Lou Zhonghua.

“There is no need to cal­cu­late the cost,” he said. “As long as we can guard our pic­turesque home­land well, it’s worth the ef­fort.”

Liang Shuang con­trib­uted to this story.

Lou Zhonghua, his wife and son with their fire truck.

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