Fire motorbikes can even take shortcuts through even smaller alleys to reach a fire faster.
(Photo kinhtedothi.vn
)

Hanoi (VNA) - The network of deep, tiny alleys running side by side are part of the mysterious beauty of old Hanoi, but they also pose a death trap for those in flats and houses along them when fire breaks out.

The cobweb alleys, many of which are barely enough for two people to pass side-on, are impossible to reach in an ordinary fire truck.

Then a simple solution - fire motorbikes has come. A fire motorbike would look similar to regular motorbikes apart from two large bags on either side carrying fire extinguishers and tools, and of course, a rider in a firefighter uniform.

“It is an effective firefighting solution for small alleys and streets,” Colonel Nguyen Van Thang, deputy chief of the city Firefighter Police Division No 8 in Hai Ba Trung district, told the Kinh Te & Do Thi (Economy and Urban Affairs) newspaper.

“Fire motorbikes can even take shortcuts through even smaller alleys to reach a fire faster. The bikes are equipped with pump, extinguisher, breaking tools and even respirator masks for residents trapped inside a house,” Thang added.

The most recent fatal blaze in a Hanoi alley occurred last September, when flames burned down a seven square metre house on Hang Giay street, killing two people trapped inside. Firefighters struggled to approach the house. Those trapped inside could not escape from the "iron cage" extension they had fled into because it blocked the exit on the rooftop.

Such incidents are not rare in Hanoi. Statistics by fire police estimate that central Hoan Kiem district – where the touristy Old Quarter is located - has up to 1,700 alleys and 30 small streets unreachable by fire trucks. Most of the houses are seriously downgraded a few have emergency exits. This is made worse by the dangerously interlaced power lines hanging everywhere. A police report states that fire trucks cannot drive into 1,200 streets and have no hope of getting into thousands of small alleys.

The difficult urban structure prompted the firefighters to find a new way to deal with the issue. The idea of fire motorbikes was brought out and piloted late last year at three firefighter divisions covering the districts of Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Dong Da and Hoang Mai.

Having used a fire motorbike to reach a couple of alley fires in Dong Da district, firefighter Nguyen Van Kien of the Firefighter Police Division No 2 told  An Ninh Thu Do (Capital’s Security) newspaper that it had proved it was feasible by reducing the time to reach a fire.

The extinguishers used by motorbike firefighters contain only 10 litres of water, but Kien said they could be connected to household valves for direct water supplies.

Fire motorbikes were much more effective than ordinary fire trucks in alley-filled areas, sub-lieutenant Ta Tuong Truong from the Firefighter Police Division No 8 said, but residents were yet familiar with them and sometimes refused to make way for the rescuers.-VNA