Fire in Seoul Suburb Kills 4, Residents Blame Firefighters

Article from No Cut News:

Fire in Uijeongbu; “Fire Station Helicopters Fueled Flames” vs. “Absolutely Not”

fire in uijeongbu

Residents say that the winds from the helicopter spread the flames. Fire department deployed emergency crew, deaths also confirmed.

128 victims of the Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi-do apartment building fire include 4 who lost their lives. Some controversy has arose, as residents say, “the helicopter sent by the fire department helped spread the fire.”

Upwards of 100 victims attended a meeting at noon on the 11th in the auditorium of Kyeong-ui Elementary School, that had been turned into a temporary shelter. The meeting was held by Uijeongbu Fire Department Chief Lee Jae-min. Suspicions and talk of guilt on the part of the fire department were brought up during the meeting.

2 helicopters dispatched from the fire station arrived 30 minutes after a call was received reporting the fire. Residents claim the helicopter’s propellers blasted wind across the rooftop of the building, thus fueling the fire.

One resident said, “When the fire first started at Daebong Green Apartments, the firefighters were putting out the fire below. But when the helicopters came, the wind made the fire spread. We all had to get out of there – even the firefighters.

Another resident claimed, “During the 10 or so minutes the helicopter’s propellers were spinning, the fire jumped to the next building. The middle floors of the building were untouched, but both the bottom and higher floors had parts that were on fire.

The residents gathered in the auditorium were unanimous. They cried out, “We all saw it. We are all witnesses.”

Chief Kim of the Uijeongbu fire department denied the accusations, “The helicopter was not the cause of the fire spreading. We absolutely cannot say that is what happened.”

Kim continued, saying, “Putting out the fire is paramount, but there were also people either in severe condition, or in cardiac arrest, who were on the roof needing rescue. Rescuing these people was our first priority.

The fire department emphasized that four people were rescued from the roof by helicopter.

Upon hearing that rescuing victims was the first priority, residents were sympathetic to this policy. They then demanded an explanation. “We want to know who started the fire,” they insisted repeatedly.

Residents claim that, “You failed to put out the fire in the beginning, and didn’t have the foresight to expect the fire to jump to the neighboring building.” The fire department responded, “It’s near impossible to reach all four sides of a building at once, especially considering the flammable styrofoam material and cars parked in the lot, the close proximity of the buildings to one another. All of these factors led to the fire’s sudden growth.”

Beyond this, after explaining that the only 2-year old building had not yet been inspected by the fire department, Chief Kim promised that, “In the future, this will be done.” Residents subsequently erupted in anger, saying, “What are you talking about? The fire alarms didn’t go off properly. This is too little, too late.”

Comments from Naver :


It’s like a person rescued from drowning asking their rescuer to please get their stuff too.


They’ve already tried to find some advantageous position for claiming damages? If there’s a fire, don’t send a helicopter. Put out the fire and rescue victims.


They say sometimes a little knowledge can be dangerous.. After Sewol, people have completely lost their trust in anything.. Do they really not think about those 4 people who were rescued by the helicopter?


They’re making nothing into something here.. It was probably just the wind so why don’t they sue the Earth.. How about suing the motorcycle company??


They did their best to rescue people so what’s all this noise about? The firefighters must feel really crappy now. You couldn’t just say thank you? Ugh!


This seems quite speculative. It’s normal for a helicopter to be dispatched to rescue victims of a fire. For them to be talking about that it’s just… it doesn’t make sense really. If the helicopter hadn’t have gone there, a couple of people would’ve died from the late response. If the helicopter hadn’t have gone there, the people who could be saved would’ve died, and everyone would be angry about it. No matter what they do they’ll be blamed. Getting blamed is unavoidable.


Shameless. If the helicopter hadn’t have come then who would’ve saved those people from the roof?


This is really a societal problem. I understand how you feel right now but enough is enough. They worked so hard to rescue you. How can you say that to them?


What kind of citizens are they? …. If something happens it’s the country’s fault??? Ever since the Sewol people’s sense of citizenship has changed to become this.


So you’re saying those people on the roof should’ve been left to suffocate and die??? Even if you’re pushing it be reasonable…

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  • chucky3176

    If the helicopters didn’t come and the people on the roof died, they would have blamed the fire crew for not trying to rescue the people on the roof. Either way, the firemen were fucked, since the public were going to blame the fire and the emergency crew, the most convenient scapegoats. It’s a deep malady in Korean society to blame people that are the most powerless. How about blaming selfish Korean drivers who refuses to get out of the way of emergency vehicles on the roads? How about blaming the city government fire inspectors who passed the construction of these buildings (the builder of the residential buildings saved money and profited by applying highly flammable styrofoam materials on the outer walls of the buildings) ? The Korean government also had its dirty fingers in the pot, when they refused to pass a law that would have required sprinkler systems to be installed on buildings less than 10 stories. The builders cheapened out by stopping at 10 stories to bypass the law. Why? Because they’re more interested in protecting the construction builders and businesses, rather than the people. Also to a lesser degree, the fault has to lie with Koreans living in Seoul, who insist on living in the most densest populated area in the world, to the point they would give up quality of life over convenience. This in turn fuels greed by those who wouldn’t mind making fat profits by building on top of what’s already over built without regards to safety.

    • KoreanPeninsulaSeoul

      Blame current Seoul Mayor. Blame people who elected him twice. Current Seoul Mayor is one lazy ass unproductive person in Seoul.

      • Dark Night

        You forgot to add incompetent and condescending

  • KoreanPeninsulaSeoul

    Enough with blame games. Fire fighters did there job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ewnerd Nasalo

      I’m gonna be that guy today… *their

  • bigmamat

    Nothing under the sun could compel me to live in one of those high rise death traps. Not just in Seoul in any large city. I don’t know what I’m more afraid of, fire or heights.

    • BSDetector

      I’m on up on the 22nd and I love it. Don’t have to put up with the noise and foolishness of living in Seoul and have a nice view of the Han.

      On a side note what’s with this country and not only ignoring basic life safety but blaming rescue people to boot?

      Remember when you point a finger at someone there are three other fingers pointing back at you. And a thumb pointing up.. at something.. :o

      • bigmamat

        Sounds like Sewol all over again to me. Easier to blame them than the people who are actually responsible for public safety, their politicians….I guess.

        • Ewnerd Nasalo

          Indeed, If anything some degree of fault should lie with the building inspectors and contractors. Buildings are made in such slapdash fashion that it’s no wonder there are these problems. Someone said the fire alarms didn’t go off. Doesn’t seem the cause has been determined yet either…

          • Lansdow

            Yip. Like most of these disasters, the problem can be traced back to complete lack of safety regulations, corner cutting and corruption. Shit hits the fan and everyone blames the first responders.
            My 16 story apartment building has ONE central stairwell which is partially blocked on most levels by bikes, sacks of cabbages, wire netting that some idiot ajosshi has strung across one area (which i tear down whenever i see it). The smoke detectors do not work. When I went back home last year I brought a few with me to stick in my apartment. Last November the fire alarm went off at about 6am. My wife and I and two Bangladeshi 3D workers were the ONLY people to come out. Oh and the old security guard man. He said he didn’t know why the alarm went off but the fire department were on there way. 30 minutes later still no fire truck we gave up and went back inside. It freaks me out the lack of fire safety in these huge complexes. It’s another monumental disaster waiting to happen. I’m sure they will blame the local firemen when that day comes.

          • bigmamat

            People shouldn’t be allowed to occupy building without fire alarms or smoke detectors….it is a city after all they should have LOTs of building inspectors in a city of 13 million.

      • Sid Driver

        I have to agree with BS, the higher up you are the more peaceful it is, especially at night! I also loved opening my windows and maybe it was just me but I felt like the air was fresher up there.

        Another interesting fact is that most high rise apartments will have you evacuate to the roof for a chopper to airlift you to safety. I’m not sure what floor it starts at though…

        • Dark Night

          I think it was the 15th floor. Korean fire truck ladders don’t go higher than that.

      • bumfromkorea

        It’s the slow but consistent erosion of the public’s trust in the government and its services, significantly accelerated during the PGH’s presidency. Sewol was the 1000t weight that broke the camel’s back, and now the public will automatically assume that it was the incompetence of the public servants that caused the accidents/fires/disasters/what have you.

    • WannabeXenophile

      Ditto. Obviously, I understand why they build upwards, but I hate tower blocks.

      • bigmamat

        I’ve lived in the suburbs most of my life plus my city is small. I lived on the southside of the city which is like all southsides in most US cities, a bit rough but no high rise buildings. I’ve lived on the second floor of a couple of apartments but never that high up. No real desire too either.

  • Yaminah Jamison

    They’re fire fighters…. not Jesus. If they’re so bad, next time they experience a fire, they shouldn’t come since they obviously know what they’re talking about.

  • commander

    To sum up issues involved, the first question is whether the helicopter from the fire department contributed to the blaze going wilder by adding wind to the building in flame

    What should be checked here is whether the helicopter pilot is well aware of points of extra attention when flying the chopper in an fire extinguishing operation, and whether the pilot has trained to operate the fire chopper when a fire breaks out in a densely clustered building in a urban area.

    If the pilot is unaware of any guidelines and get no training, the fir department may be to blame in part for the bigger damage than thought the fire brought.

    Second, if the pilot is knowledgeable and experienced, the question is whether the wind from helicopter hovering near the building aflame is an inevitable result of a rescue operation for those trapped inside the building.

    In short, does the rescue operation possibly outweigh the work of putting out the fire? Is that decision reasonable given the circumstances at that time?

    Finally, when it’s unclear what caused the fire, it is regrettable that residents from the building are pursuing to hold accountable firefighters for the damage.

    It seems that residents collectively take out their anger on firefighters, who risk their lives battling fire, with the prospect of compensation for the damage getting remote because of unidentified cause of the blaze.

    Of course, if there is any error made by the fire brigade, it should be corrected to ensure that it won’t happen again.

    • Chucky3176

      Short answer.

      Just disband the fire department, just like they did with the coast guards.
      While they’re doing that, just get rid of the useless police as well. Why stop there? Get rid of the government too. Anarchy is the answer. That’s it.

  • Sid Driver

    I have to agree with the netizens on this one. I’m glad they are seeing reason and supporting the firefighters.

  • James

    It’s bad enough that the roads leading to the buildings are too narrow for fire trucks. It’s a scandal that this was combined with having no smoke detectors. All for the sake of saving 9,000won each time by putting in a heat detector rather than a smoke detector. They could have put smoke detectors on every floor in each of those 3 buildings for less than the payout from a life insurance policy.

  • ksharp7

    They do not go into the part of the ferry that is submerged and listing at 70 degrees and they get into trouble. For getting the few people off the structure above the water level and in the water they get disbanded! This place just decides to blame people and anyone will do.

    They blame the welder of the grate in the concert tragedy instead of the dozens of people climbing many feet off the sidewalk onto the air shaft. Who would design or construct an air grate assuming dozens of adults were going to climb up on the thing at the same time? It is out of the path of walking and waist – chest high on most adults. But it’s improper welding?

    The fire spreading during the rescue of getting people out of harms way is the fault of the government and company that built the buildings who allowed the exterior of a 10 story building and the ones surrounding them to be built with combustible materials, as well as their close proximity to one another. Where were the people that died? Which building? The first building where the fire started the exit was blocked. They had to go to the roof to get people out. There was also the problem of the building so close to the tracks on the one side. Building codes are built with these things in mind in the U.S. Even if they find the building was built closer together than allowed, and if not there were allowed too close together, they will still blame the fire department, why? If they didn’t attempt rescue to those on the roof they would be blamed for that. There is no winning unless nothing bad happens ever. It’s impossible. If they did not inspect the building before it should not have been allowed to be occupied. That isn’t the fire departments fault either. I don’t know what will happen with the new Lotte mall. Can’t they finish construction first?

    • commander

      The finger of accusation turns at the firefighters when there is no one responsible for the blaze and the damage it wrought.

      Who could punished the construction of buildings in so close vicinity as for the flame to jump to an adjacent building. A government who neglects to enforce construction safety regulations (there are numerous buildings out there not complying with the rules.)? or A building firm who constructed the building? or Residents who saw the close proximity but not file a complaint to regulators?

      If the cause of the fire is not established, angry voices from victims vociferous looking for a scape goat.

      In a nutshell, victims of the fire are furious over the impossibility of no one being held accountable for the fire.

      • chucky3176

        If the government strictly enforces fire safety regulations in buildings, the people will complain that government are being a-holes for sticking to the rules and needlessly inconveniencing their daily lives God only knows how many times I’ve heard complaints about needless fire exit doors, useless fire drills, and city inspectors who are nuisance and hinderance to businesses. The avalanche of complaints flood into the local governments that such “over regulations” are strangling Korean businesses. It’s damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

        What about the highly competitive but struggling construction business? They are highly pressured to keep the costs down no matter what, otherwise be in danger of going out of business. So they use inferior cheap materials to cut costs, design and engineer to meet low cost targets, and use cheap foreign labor like pack mules.

        The blames can be pointed at everyone, but it’s a society-wide problem that Koreans have built, if this is the standard of service that Koreans expect, then that’s what the Koreans are going to get. There should be questions as to who gave the permits to this construction company and how do we fix this problem. Yet there’s nothing. Why? Because Koreans as a society really don’t want strict fire regulations to slow them down. Just have a look next time when an emergency vehicle has the lights and sirens on. See how many vehicles and people ignore the emergency vehicles, and not get out of the way.

        The entire South Korean society is built on maximizing public convenience, limiting and saving costs, and speed. These are calculated risks versus cost issue. Korea accepts these safety risks that have relatively low chance of happening, in return for the other benefits of convenience and lower costs. Enforcing safety rules and laws only counters the goals and slows the speed in which the society moves, therefore incompatible with Korea. Only when disasters like this, do people lament and cry. But once it’s out of the headlines, it’s business as usual in maximizing convenience and savings, over safety regulations. Koreans will tell you they pay high amount of taxes (they really don’t, they’re next to last in taxes collected, compared to most other countries in the OECD). Yet they demand public government services that North European countries get. That’s an unrealistic expectation in my opinion.

      • elizabeth

        Wasn’t it already established that the fire was caused by a man who was trying to release his frozen motorcycle key with a flame?

      • ksharp7

        Why would residents not filing a complaint about building proximity be a problem? Are they fire and police to know how much room is needed to respond for emergency services, are they building inspectors, are they construction engineers are they CEOs?

        Fires happen. There is no way to completely prevent them. They are not always a person’s fault. But to blame the firefighters for rescuing people ‘wrong’ is just nuts. This one is suspicious because people could not exit the building and a person was in that spot before it started. Did the man intentionally set a fire or did a fire start because of something he did that would not normally set an entire building on fire. They really don’t need someone to blame. They need a way to get their lives back and the public needs to feel safe in such a situation. The public is spoiled.

        I too am worried at the talk of loosing regulations to help the economy. Yet at the same time all this talk about making sure people follow procedure. Well procedure is obeying the captain. Yet the surviving crew is in prison. The procedure is for the captain to be in charge but we see the company is in charge with the phone records and what happened with nutgate. Why is the person steering in trouble because her captian wasn’t there like he should have been, when the ship was altered so that turn couldn’t be taken and recovered. Do we blame a bus driver for a rollover after the bus is illegally extended? The captain needs to be in prison. The rest I’m not sure.

        Exactly what was Heather Cho apologizing for if she didn’t do anything wrong in court?

        • chucky3176

          “Are they fire and police to know how much room is needed to respond for emergency services”

          Space is premium in Seoul. If they put safety over maximizing space, then there won’t be able to build much over what’s already overbuilt. There’s an unexpressed understanding by everyone that, these are intentionally overlooked, otherwise nothing gets done.

          “Did the man intentionally set a fire or did a fire start because of something he did that would not normally set an entire building on fire.”

          The latter. He parked his scooter in front of the exit door.He couldn’t get out his key from the scooter because he thought it was frozen. He took a lighter, and tried to melt the key out. He was able to take the key out and left the bike there. Little did he know that he set fire to the wiring, and after few minutes after the man left the scene, the bike burst into flame. The flames shot over, setting the outer material of the building, which was highly flammable. Of course the only exit was blocked due to the bike being on fire, blocking and preventing the only escape route. The man was arrested with unintentional homicide. This should not even happened in the first place at all, if the construction company didn’t cheap out and used styrofoam to cover the outer walls of the building. And the fire wouldn’t have set fire to the next building, if they had spaced out the buildings far enough away.

  • Guy Forget

    There is a simple solution to all fires in buildings. Every building should have installed steel wire cable lines that run from the top to the bottom where fire victims can easily use an apparatus to hook themselves to the cable wires where they can easily come down. It’s really not that hard at all to make it. It’s far better than people trying to jump out of a burning building and try their luck at flying.

    • forget it

      that’s the worst idea ever. the last thing people would do in a fire is to run around looking for some sort of ‘apparatus’ that hooks to a zip line, not to mention they aren’t the simplest things to work with. also just imagine a city full of buildings with wires running everywhere, which are probably a public safety hazard in and of itself anyway. ridiculous

      • BSDetector

        It’s funny you say that because that’s kind of how it’s done here. Instead of an existing line to hook on to though there’s a kit with a harness and line, you wear it and deploy out the window. I’ll leave it up to you figure out which you wear and which you chuck out the window.

  • goldengluvsk2

    its shocking how people sometimes bark to the wrong tree… why not bark to the people that gave their permission to the building’s owner without proper inspections? if theyre going to question the fire department, it must be for not inspecting buildings BEFORE selling/renting them…

  • Nik

    i live at the tallest building on the left and I saw everything from the beginning. yes maybe the helicopter’s wind made the fire spread but they were the last chance for the people there on the roof. I think the biggest problems are that the buildings are too close to each others, maybe like 1m away!!! and no sprinkler system, which is crazy, and the other problem is the location of the building, there’s subway line at the back side so no cars can go there, and in front there’s a small street which is usually full of cars (cause the 2 buildings don’t have enough parking places), so only 2 firetrucks could go there, I don’t blame the firefighters at all but the people who allowed the buildings to be built that close. actually the biggest fire was in our building, the automated parking system which was covered by some plastic walls started burning and all cars inside (maybe about 15) made the fire bigger.
    now the other problem is that after almost 3 weeks they just “sealed” the buildings and do nothing, the people don’t have place to live cause they can’t take their stuffs to move to other apartments, and the owners can’t give their deposits (about 10,000$) back, cause in Korea you have to pay that crazy deposits (10,000$ is the lowest) to rent apartment, other crazy thing which I still can’t explain why?

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