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Off-duty firefighter contains fire in dry sauna

Posted December. 11, 2018 08:56,   

Updated December. 11, 2018 08:56

In Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province, an off-duty firefighter’s shrewd move has greatly helped to minimize damage when a fire broke out in a jjimjilbang, Korean dry sauna, over the weekend.

The fire began at around 10:40 p.m. Sunday in a staff room on the second floor of a three-story building (the first and third floors occupied by female and male saunas, respectively).

The fire was first spotted by the Gyeryong Fire Station’s firefighter Shin Jeong-hoon (40), who was in the dry sauna with his wife surnamed Lee (37) and two children. Having sensed a smoky smell, Lee told a staff at a snack bar to turn off a heater as it may be the reason. An alarm bell soon rang out two times, and Lee shouted out loud “fire!” after seeing black smoke coming out of the staff room. Staff at the sauna reported the fire to the Nonsan Fire Station at 10:42 p.m., and broadcast a warning to evacuate.

Shin first made Lee and his two children to leave the building, and climbed back to the second floor. As he had frequently visited the sauna and thanks to his habit of checking the location of fire protection equipment in advance, Shin was able to find the building’s fire hydrants immediately. All 30 visitors also safely evacuated. While the firefighter was trying to spread out the fire hose, the staff unlocked and opened the door, helping him to contain the fire promptly. “There was no flame to be seen when I was putting out the fire. When the fire was extinguished, a large part of the second floor had been filled with black smoke,” he said.

At around 10:47 p.m., firefighters arrived and checked the damage done to each sauna room. The fire burned an area of 44 square meters within the staff room, incurring 5 million won in property damage (estimated by the fire station), but there was no casualty or injury reported. “Depending on the type of inflammables, fire can uncontrollably spread within five minutes. Shin’s initial response greatly reduced the damage,” said an official at the Nonsan Fire Station. “Even on a day off, a firefighter is and should be a firefighter,” Shin said. “The staff’s swift response helped to minimize confusion and damage.”

Myung-Hun Jee mhjee@donga.com