Jecheon’s Tragedy - Who is Responsible?
Jecheon’s Tragedy - Who is Responsible?
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  • 승인 2018.03.07 13:11
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▲Fire fighters putting out fire in Jaecheon
▲Fire fighters putting out fire in Jaecheon

There was a huge fire in Jecheon’s Sports Center on Dec. 21, 2017, and it was a disaster, with 37 people injured and 29 people dead. The fire started on the first floor parking lot ceiling, and it spread to the cars, becoming a conflagration. There are some serious problems that have been highlighted, and caused this fire to become a tragedy. The first is the “piloti” structure of the building. Piloti structure only has pillars on the first floor and there is no wall, so it can be used as a parking lot. However, because of this structure, the fire could spread through the building’s main passage in a fast pace, and people could not escape through this passage. Critically, the emergency exit of the women’s sauna was used as a storage and blocked the way. Also, because there were cars parked in the parking lot, fire fighters had trouble entering the building. Another cause pointed out is the use of “drivit”. Drivit is used as a heat insulating material, and it is mostly Styrofoam. Styrofoam is pasted on the outer side of the wall, and gypsum or paint is painted on it. However, as we can see in this case, it is prone to fire, and is also easy to break. In addition, when drivit burns, it emits toxic gas and this can lead to people suffocating.

One of the biggest arguments is the issue of whether the fire fighters have responsibility for this tragedy. Some people are claiming that the initial reaction of the fire fighters was poor, and they should have broken the second floor window, and went into the building to save people. However, the fire fighters are claiming that the fire could have spread to the gas tank, and they had to concentrate on taking out the fire. Also, because there were illegally parked cars where the fire truck should have gone in, subsequently, delaying their time.

Because of these issues, the director of the Chungbuk Fire Service Headquarters and three other people had their positions eliminated. People are worried, however, whether this discipline is reasonable or not. The Fire Service Authority’s stance is that there is only one fire truck with a ladder at Jecheon, and the first fire fighters that arrived at the site were not rescuers. Not all fire fighters can be brought in for rescuing since they all have specific jobs, such as extinguishing fires, rescuing, etc. Their situation was poor.

People have made a petition to Cheong Wa Dae asking “Do not punish the fire fighters.” 37,978 people has agreed on this petition as of Jan. 27. People are arguing, “If we punish the fire fighters for every accident, who will try to become a fire fighter and save our lives and property?” Instead, voices asking for the need for improvement in fire fighters’ situation and their work environment has arose.

Most of the reasons that caused conflagration are known now, but the issue about the fire fighters’ responsibility does not seem like it will cool down for a while. One thing we have to keep in mind is that it is very unusual of the public to stand up for the group that was in charge during a tragedy.

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