Slow Fire Response and Broken Emergency Door Blamed for High Jecheon Fire Death Toll

The fire killed 29 people in Jecheon may have had such a high death toll because of a number of factors to include a broken emergency exit door:

This photo, provided by Fire Prevention News on Dec. 23, 2017, shows traces left by victims of a deadly blaze at a gym in Jecheon, some 170 kilometers southeast of Seoul, near the emergency exit on the second floor where 20 out of 29 dead were found. The fire took place at the eight-story sports center on Dec. 21. (Yonhap)

Witnesses also pointed to insufficient emergency exits and illegally parked cars that caused a delay in putting out the fire by blocking fire trucks’ access to the building.

The incident is invoking comparisons with a fire which erupted three years ago at an apartment in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province. The building also contained the flammable material and was constructed in a similar style.

Police will also look into whether the building was properly managed, including the maintenance of sprinklers and other fire prevention facilities. Some reportedly testified that the exit door of the sauna, located on the second and third floors, had been broken. Twenty of the 29 people who died were using the facility when the fire erupted.   [Korea Times]

I have personally seen fire exits chained before in Korean buildings so the fact that the exit door from the sauna was not working and no one bothered to repair it is not surprising to me.  Additionally it has been discovered that the building’s design and materials used caused it to be an increased fire hazard.

Then to make matters the firefighters appeared to be totally unprepared to deal with such a large fire:

The burned building and its surroundings are covered in soot. / Yonhap

Firefighters have been criticized for not acting fast enough to save the 29 people killed in a fire that engulfed an eight-story commercial building in Jecheon on Thursday.

Witnesses said firefighters did not break the windows of the North Chungcheong Province building to allow people to escape but only used their hoses from the outside.

A victim’s husband, in his late 50s, cried that his wife struggled to break out of the building for so long that when he reached her body she no longer had fingerprints. The heartbroken man blamed firefighters for not breaking the windows to let people out.

Firefighters from the Chungbuk Fire Service Headquarters entered the second floor, where 20 of the deaths occurred, 40 minutes after arriving. Many of the victims were in the women’s sauna room in a public bathhouse.

City fire emergency service Chief Lee Sang-min said firefighters could not promptly reach the second floor because cars parked around the building were on fire and there was a danger of gas explosions.

Rescuers also were criticized for the delay in positioning a ladder platform fire engine. If it were not for a private firm sending a ladder truck, there might have been more deaths, reports said.

The fire engine was delayed about 30 minutes and saved only one person trapped high in the building while the private truck saved three on the eighth floor.

Lee said the ladder platform arrived late because of parked cars at the site.  [Korea Times]

That is pretty sad when a private company was able to get a ladder truck to rescue people before the fire department and saved more lives.

So I wonder if the Korean left will blame President Moon for the slow rescue response, lax safety standards, and demand that he should have personally been on site to direct the rescue like they did to former President Park after the Sewol Ferry Boat sinking?  Of course they won’t because the criticism was all politically motivated.  There was nothing President Park could have done to rescue the people on the Sewol just like there was nothing President Moon could do to rescue people at this fire.  I suspect we will hear little else about this fire and the lax safety culture in Korea will continue which there is a lot of blame to go around for that.

President Moon Jae-in made a surprise trip to the site of a tragic fire in the small southeastern city of Jecheon Friday.


Fire in Jecheon Kills 29 South Koreans

This is a really horrible fire that killed 29 people and injured 20 more:

Firefighters battle a blaze at an eight-story fitness building in Jecheon, North Chungcheong Province, Thursday. / Yonhap

Twenty-nine people were killed and more than 20 injured Thursday in an afternoon blaze in a building in Jecheon, some 170 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

The Chungbuk Fire Service Headquarters said the blaze began in the basement parking lot of an eight-story building at 3:53 p.m. The fire quickly spread through the building housing a fitness center, driving range, public sauna and restaurants.

Fire officials said most of the victims were in the sauna as they were trapped inside of the public bath on the second floor. They said 15 people, including a 50-year-old woman surnamed Kim, were found dead in the sauna.

Twenty people were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

US Soldier Climbs Water Pipe to Rescue Family from Apartment Fire In Daegu

Great job by this soldier in Daegu who climbed a water pipe to assist a family during an apartment fire in Daegu:

A routine trip to the commissary turned into a lifesaving mission, Feb. 5, outside of Camp Humphreys. Staff Sgt. Victor Gomoimunn and his wife, Nicole Lysiak, were on their way to do their grocery shopping when she noticed smoke coming from a building just down the street from their home.

Gomoimunn, a petroleum supply specialist from Waterford, New York assigned to 339th Quartermaster Company, immediately ran towards the smoke filled building asking the gathering crowd if there was anyone left inside. Upon receiving reports that there was a woman and her young child still in their apartment on the third floor he ran into the building through the front door searching for a way to get upstairs to them.

“I saw the children standing outside and I was worried about them,” said Lysiak. “We know many of the residents in the neighborhood and when I looked up he was gone.”

“The building was filled with black smoke,” said Gomoimunn. “I couldn’t see anything and I couldn’t breathe.”

Knowing that someone may still be trapped inside he began searching for another way in, explained Lysiak. He ran around the side of the building searching for another entrance before spotting water pipes going up the side of the building. They happened to run near a third floor window.  []

You can read the rest at the link, but Gomoimunn climbed the water pipe and helped a family get on to a balcony and was prepared to help them down the water pipe when the fire department arrived to fight the fire.

Picture of the Day: Investigation Begins Into Fire That Killed Four People in Seoul

Investigation into fire at shopping mall

A team of police and fire officials conduct an investigation on Feb. 5, 2017, into a fire that broke out at a shopping small connected to a couple of residential skyscrappers in Dongtan, a new bed town near Seoul, a day earlier. The fire killed four people. (Yonhap)

Picture of the Day: Park Chung-hee Memorial Burned Down By Arsonist

Memorial hall for president's late father burnt down

The memorial hall for late President Park Chung-hee is destroyed in a fire on Dec. 1, 2016, in his birthplace in Gumi, some 261 kilometers southeast of Seoul. The fire took place at around 3:15 p.m., and is being investigated as arson, at a time when his daughter, incumbent President Park Geun-hye, is facing strong public pressure to step down in order to take responsibility for an influence-peddling scandal involving herself and her confidante. (Yonhap)

Bus Fire Kills 10 Passengers In South Korea

This is a really horrible tragedy which appears to have been caused by negligence by the driver:

A fire on a tour bus killed 10 people Thursday night on a highway in Ulsan. Seven others on the bus, which was carrying 22 people including a tour guide and the driver, were injured.

About 10:10 p.m., the bus scraped against a crash barrier several times while changing lanes. It then caught fire.

The passengers could not get out because the crash barrier was blocking the door. Some of them managed to break the window and escape, but 10 people could not escape from the smoke and fire, survivors and witnesses said.

Firefighters extinguished the fire at 11:01 p.m. Only the frame of the bus was left.
The tour guide told police that they couldn’t find the emergency hammer, so the driver used a fire extinguisher to break the windows.

The driver, surnamed Lee, 49, claimed that one of the tires went flat and made the bus lose balance. He added he did not doze off. But police suspect he was speeding, based on traffic camera footage and testimony from some of the passengers that the bus was travelling at high speed before suddenly changing lanes.

Police will request an arrest warrant for the driver for accidental homicide, saying Lee did not drive safely enough. “The driver claims the accident was caused by a flat tire, so we will send the bus to the National Forensic Service for inspection,” Choi Ik-soo, chief of the Ulju Police Station, told journalists at a briefing. [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

Staff Sergeant Dies from Injuries After Helping Rescue Family from Fire Outside Osan AB

Sadly one of the USFK servicemembers who helped rescue a family in Songtan from a building fire has passed away from an injury she received during the rescue:

Staff Sgt. Cierra Rogers died May 20, 2016 in Florida from injuries she sustained in April while rescuing a family from a burning building near Osan Air Base, South Korea.

The 731st Air Mobility Squadron at Osan Air Base has honored an airman who died from injuries sustained while helping save a family from a burning building.

Staff Sgt. Cierra Rogers died May 20 shortly after arriving at her follow-on duty station in Florida. She was 26 years old. Rogers, who was credited with being the first airman to arrive at the scene, was hospitalized in the days following the April 29 fire in South Korea’s Songtan district and required surgery.  (……..)

“This beauty was in the hospital when everyone was being interviewed,” friend Kris Murray wrote in a tribute post on Facebook. “[Cierra] remained calm and told the mom how to breathe in the smoke, then convinced the mom to throw her three babies out the window to safety where firefighters and a few airman and soldiers waited to catch them. Cierra got very hurt in the process while sliding down some wires and kicking a window in.”  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but this article from the Osan AB public affairs office does describe Staff Sergeant Rogers’ action during the fire and how she sustained the injury:

taff Sgt. Cierra Rogers, 731st Air Mobility Squadron administrative assistant, was among the five individuals trapped inside the apartment. When they began to smell smoke and noticed a fire broke out, she reacted quickly to help the mother and her children get out the building.

Rogers explained that after realizing they could not go through the main doors, she kicked through one of the windows leading to the apartment’s patio, which provided the only means of escape from the smoke and growing flames.

“From then I made a decision because you can easily die from choking on smoke,” said Rogers.

Despite the deep laceration she suffered from kicking through the glass, Rogers continued to push forward to get herself and the family closer to safety.

She looked down on the alley below. She attempted to scale down the building using wires near the patio. A few steps down she slid down the wire, falling 15 feet to the ground.

Several service members quickly rushed to her side to provide self aid buddy care until first responders arrived.  [Osan PAO]

You can read more at the link, but condolences to her friends and family for their loss.

Picture of the Day: Korean Air Plane Catches Fire

Firefighters put out a fire on a Korean Air plane on the runway of Haneda Airport in Tokyo on May 27, 2016, in this photo released by Kyodo News. The left wing of the plane bound for Seoul caught fire before takeoff, but all 319 passengers and crew were safely evacuated, according to the Japanese news agency. (Yonhap)

Firefighters put out a fire on a Korean Air plane on the runway of Haneda Airport in Tokyo on May 27, 2016, in this photo released by Kyodo News. The left wing of the plane bound for Seoul caught fire before takeoff, but all 319 passengers and crew were safely evacuated, according to the Japanese news agency. (Yonhap)

US Servicemembers Conduct Dramatic Rescue of Family From Burning Building Outside of Osan Airbase

Via a reader tip comes this dramatic rescue story of US servicemembers saving a Nigerian family from a burning building outside of Osan AB:

The scenario, captured in mobile phone footage, is a mother’s nightmare.  On the fourth story of a burning building in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, a woman dangles her baby out the window as smoke billows from two floors below.  Onlookers scream and wave their hands as the 30-year-old mother holds out the terrified infant — the child’s legs kicking furiously — before dropping her to the crowd.  Another child follows, then another, before the woman herself leaps from the window — the only escape route.  Remarkably, all survived without injury Saturday, caught safely on blankets in a rescue effort orchestrated by passing U.S. service personnel stationed at nearby Osan Air Base.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Raimondo told CNN he was walking to dinner Saturday when he saw clouds of smoke and set off in that direction.  On assessing the scene, he and a colleague discussed how to help and resolved to get some blankets from a nearby store. They corralled others to help hold the blankets, then tried to persuade the mother to drop her children to safety. First Sgt. Melanie Scott said the woman was understandably reluctant to let go of her children, ages 1, 3 and 4.

“You could tell she was scared. She didn’t want to.”  Raimondo said that the “last baby was the most difficult in my eyes, she just wouldn’t let her go for some reason.”  He said he repeatedly begged the mother: “Please just throw the baby down!”  “I remember her screaming (at) the baby, ‘I love you, I love you. …’ Next thing you know she dropped the baby.”  [CNN]


You can read the rest at the link, but quick thinking and great job by everyone involved in this rescue effort.