On April 6, 2019, President Moon Jae-in declared Gangwon Province’s fire devastated region a disaster area. However, there were many other places besides Gangwon that experienced forest fires. It took an hour to control a fire in Yeosu, and in Busan, a wild mountain fire burned 1,650 square meters of woods and fields. There were also both large and small forest fires in Asan, Daegu, and Pocheon, which had all firefighters and local people nervous and fearful. However, Gangwon was hit the hardest and as such, it was in the news often. Gangwon suffered damages roughly 740 times the size of a soccer field and was reportedly caused by the cut of the opening and closing of telephone pole.
The government and firefighters played key roles in extinguishing the forest fire, and people say they should be admired for their all-out effort to provide temporary shelters for victims. The firefighting system operated by fire authorities has changed. In the past, a few firefighters were placed and more of them were added when the fire continues. However, the basic principle has been changed recently by putting in a large number of people at the initial stage and gradually lowering the level of response when the fire subsides. In addition, the emergency response team is authorized to issue a higher level of response after an initial response deems the fire likely to continue. This is not the end. The tragedy had many hidden heroes. First of all, there was the special fire brigade belonging to the Korea Forest Service that worked towards containing the fires all through the nights, and it went to places helicopters could not reach. There was also a South Korean military officer who tried to extinguish the forest fire by solving his meals with combat food. Moreover, shortly after the fires broke out, the military deployed 32 military helicopters, 26 military-owned fire engines, and 16,500 military personnel to the area to help with efforts to extinguish the blaze. Citizens also pitched in with donations. Sookmyungians also joined in the effort by donating items. On April 16, members of the student council and students of Sookmyung Women's University visited Gangneung to help out. They went on behalf of 1,023 sookmyungians who are the head of the Student Council Education Bureau and the head of the Social Solidarity. There are still signs of damage and we need long time to restore completely, but many people hope for quick restore with the efforts like donations and government supports.
1) Shin Hyewon, “Full-Scale Restoration of the Damages Caused by Forest Fires…. Little Known Heroes”, JTBC, April 8, 2019