Many of the unsung heroes of Thailand are both the paid and volunteer fire fighters. The Fire Department headquarters is located in City Hall but it is only offices as Bangkok doesn’t have a main fire station per say. The Bangkok Fire and Rescue Department has 35 fire stations with around 1,600 firefighters. These 24-hour stations are divided into four divisions throughout the city.
Paid firefighters start at B15,000 or less than $500 per month and typically live in housing provided at the fire stations.
The volunteer firefighters will rush to a fire on motorcycles and in pick-up trucks with sirens blaring and flashing lights. Many times they are first on the scene. This is because some of the volunteers and fire trucks are positioned in areas where fires often occur. Why? Bangkok traffic. It is easier to get men through the streets than a truck.
Small sois is a major problem in fighting fires in Thailand. A soi is the Thai word for street. Often these old narrow streets are filled with rows of tiny shops and will not allow a fire truck to pass. Instead, fire hoses often have to be laid out for hundreds of feet to reach the fire.
To report an emergency, people can dial 199.
In 1993, Thailand experienced the Kader Toy Factory fire. The fire broke out around 4pm and factory workers were told to continue working because it was not an emergency.
Cheap material that was used to build the factory, poor fire exits along with factory doors being locked were some of the reasons for this disaster. Almost 200 workers were killed and over 500 injured.
Rome was the first city where firefighters were needed and it was basically the slaves and workers that fought the fires. They would form bucket brigades and attempt to smother smaller fires, but would also demolish nearby buildings to slow the spread of the fire.
In 1736, Benjamin Franklin founded the 1st fire department in America. The firefighters had two main tools. First were the salvage bags which were used to collect and save valuables. Second, were the bed keys. These were used to take apart the wooden frame of a bed (often the most valuable item in a home) into pieces to carry out of the house.
Many of the following photographs were taken in 1999 using film.
Many of the fire trucks are at least 20 years old.
However, the Thai firefighters do their best with what they have.
This is not the best way to secure a fire hose to the coupling.
Poor people have poor ways.
Once these old wooden buildings catch fire
they are difficult to extinguish.
Fire gear ready to Go
Just like in the states the
white hats mean a battalion chief on up.
This fire happened at the same time the area was flooded.
This lady ended up loosing everything she owned which was not much. Unfortunately, this scene is quite common in the slums.
A little Short on Equipment