Firefighting fan fulfills ambition
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.