Parts of Nam Sang Wai – a wetland area in Yuen Long – were scorched on Monday and Tuesday.
Lawmaker and Yuen Long District Councillor Roy Kwong said it was the third time in his memory that mysterious fires had occurred in the area. He questioned whether it was arson and related to local development plans.
At around 3pm on Monday, three fire lines – two of them ten metres long and one 20 metres long – burned for several hours until they were put out by around 8am on Tuesday.
Firefighters mobilised two waterous floto pumps, as Government Flying Service helicopters threw water bombs. The Fire Service Department had said there were no suspicious circumstances.
Seven hours later, at around 3pm on Tuesday, firefighters received reports that fires were igniting again in the area.
Firefighters found two 20 metres long fire lines and sought to put them out using fire beaters and flexible backpack pumps. By around 4pm, Government Flying Service helicopters were also throwing water bombs. The fire was under control by 5:50pm.
The Fire Service Department said the Tuesday fire was spreading unusually fast and there were suspicious circumstances. The police was investigating the fire as a case of arson.
Kwong said the fire this week was also unusual, as there were multiple starting points.
In 2010, developers launched a proposal to develop parts of Nam Sang Wai into residential buildings and golf courses. Kwong said that much of the land scorched in this week’s fire belonged to Nam Sang Wai Development Company Limited.
Its shareholders are property tycoons – namely Adrian Fu Hau-chak of the Fu Family who has owned the land for decades, and Martin Lee Ka-Shing, vice-chair of Henderson Land Development.
“[The company] has been in a tug of war with civil society until now,” he said, referring to protests sparked after the plans emerged. “But over the past eight years, there have been trees being cut, mysterious fires, and the river bed being drying up.”
He said Nam Sang Wai is a “back garden” for Hong Kong people, as well as a resting spot for migrating birds. He urged the police to investigate.
The Conservancy Association said there were fires in Nam Sang Wai in 2007, 2008, between October and December in 2010, and on New Year’s Day in 2011.
“Hong Kong’s spring and summer are humid, and autumn and winter are dry and cool – these conditions do not provide enough heat burning plants, thus Hong Kong has no fires which are sparked naturally, and the Namg San Wai fires must be man-made,” they said.
“In the past, the police have been at a loss over what to do when investigating the fires. Can they work harder this time to catch the people who destroy natural environment?” they added.
Nam Sang Wai Development issued a statement saying it has reported the case to the police after inspecting the burned site. It said there was suspicious circumstances.
The company said it has regularly sent staff to remove wild grass and dead trees to reduce risk of fire and opportunity of fire spreading, to protect safety of tourists. The company also said it was evaluating loses after the destruction, and will improve security and fire safety measures.
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