Beijing recruits civilians to fill firefighting gaps
Beijing has unveiled its first batch of 682 civilian firefighters, recruited from the ranks of former soldiers and local youth.
Fire and rescue services in China are permanently staffed by soldiers of the Armed Police Force and fall under the Ministry of Public Security. However, in April, the Beijing city government approved a plan to recruit civilians as firefighters under contracts.
Former soldiers under 38 years old who previously served in fire brigades account for 20 percent of the new recruits, while civilians under 30 from Beijing represent 80 percent.
“It’s necessary to recruit these firefighters because the officers and firefighters in active service are too few,” said Liu Wuliang, director of the civilian-staffed fire brigade. “The number of fire protection sites increased after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and we need more firefighters on duty.”
The firefighters passed a strict three-month selection process, including interviews, health checks, fitness tests and psychological tests.
The enrolled firefighters joined a monthlong intensive training program in July, during which they went through enhanced physical training, including pushups, situps and running.
Basic skills required for firefighters were also practiced, such as wearing breathing apparatus, connecting fire hoses and using personal rescue ropes. The firefighters were also required to walk into high-temperature rooms and find and rescue people in dense smoke in a simulated environment.
“The training in July was the first phase of our training plan. They will receive the second phase of training after they are assigned to different fire squadrons,” Liu said.
The firefighters work under contract for three years, and will be assigned to fire squadrons around Beijing, he said.
They will work four days on duty and two days off, and are on call 24 hours a day when at work. The income of the firefighters is around 100,000 yuan ($14,900) per year before taxes.
Cheng Si contributed to this story.