Community & Education HKFP Lens

HKFP Lens: Hong Kong’s Finest – battling blazes with the Lau Fau Shan fire brigade

Todd Darling is an American freelance photographer based in Hong Kong. In April this year he spent the night with a group of firefighters battling wildfires in the mountains of Lau Fau Shan, an area in Tin Shui Wai in the New Territories. Click here to see more of this work.

The Lau Fau Shan fire brigade prepares to head into the mountains of Lau Fau Shan to rescue hikers and battle blazes.

Once the fire brigade clears the low lying jungles, they must begin a steep ascent into the mountains. Many of the firefighters are also endurance runners and tri-athletes. The ascent continues for over an hour through scorched and rocky terrain that often exceeds a 45 degree angle.

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After two hours of marching through dense jungle and steep terrain, firefighters reach the peak, search for stranded hikers and relay information about the blazes to the brigade that is approaching their position.

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A firefighter and his only tool, a fire-beater.

lau fau shan new territories

Lau Fau Shan contains mountains that overlook settlements in the New Territories, Hong Kong and oyster farms in Deep Bay that separate Hong Kong from China. The decision is made to approach the blazes in order to evaluate the rate at which the fires are burning and continue to look for stranded hikers.

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Firefighters engage once they determine the fires will not die on their own. The brigade must stop frequently to observe the fires and evaluate their position.

lau fau shan new territories

A firefighter relays information to the rest of the brigade. Communication is essential to their safety. The brigade divides to cover more ground in the search for hikers.

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 When there is an opportunity to extinguish a blaze, firefighters immediately move in. Firefighters use fire-beaters, made of wood and leather to dampen flames.

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 Firefighters are forced to retreat from flames when the flames are burning uncontrollably. After hours battling fires, they are still not controlled but firefighters believe there are no stranded hikers to rescue.

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As the sun sets on Lau Fau Shan, firefighters engage the blazes and attempt to extinguish as many as they can before dark.

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 A firefighter pauses to catch his breath after extinguishing one of many blazes still burning.

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 The brigade starts to re-group at sunset and takes a much needed break to hydrate as they admire the view of Hong Kong’s lights. The brigade advances towards large blazes swept up by the wind as darkness settles in.

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 A firefighter conducts reconnaisance on a new blaze that has appeared over the horizon.

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 The brigade re-groups before tackling the largest blaze of the night. Flames reach as high as seven meters during the night.

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 The brigade attempts to control the edges of the fire from spreading as wind picks up the flames. Two firefighters are armed with water packs. One of them needs to be repaired during the fight. Water is limited on the mountain and only used when necessary.

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 The commander of the brigade seeks high ground to evaluate the situation as firefighters lose ground to the blazes.

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 Firefighters rest and wait as the wind and fire make it unsafe to engage.

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Firefighters assist each other to retreat up the steep terrain after a long day of struggling to contain the fires. The night is a series of pitched battles between them and fire and wind.

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The brigade battles the fires tirelessly waiting for backup to arrive to relieve them. The fires are not contained tonight.

Click here to see more of Todd Darling’s work.

HKFP Lens: Hong Kong's Finest - battling blazes with the Lau Fau Shan fire brigade