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Lesson to be learnt from fire

Updated: 2014-01-13 07:32
( China Daily)

The conflagration that engulfed part of the ancient town of Dukezong on Saturday seems to have caught the local authorities unprepared. It took about 10 hours to put out the fire, which destroyed 242 houses and almost two-thirds of the 1.5-square-kilometer old part of town in Shangri-La county in Southwest China's Yunnan province

Despite the explanation that all the houses were wooden and the lanes too narrow for fire engines, and other fire control equipment did not work properly because of cold weather, there is still enough reason to hold the local leaders accountable for the disastrous damage caused by the blaze.

All the factors they have cited as reasons the fire was able to do so much damage could have been addressed in advance had the local government given enough thought to fire prevention.

What has been done cannot be undone. But it is of the utmost importance that other places of historical interest learn from this lesson.

It is reported that in order to attract tourists, this ancient town underwent the biggest renovation in its history in 2009 and more than 300 shops were opened there.

Whether the gold rush blinded the local government and residents to the potential dangers is still in question. But the difficulties the local fire brigade met in putting out the blaze, at the very least, point to the local government's dereliction of duty with regard to fire prevention.

There is nothing wrong with local governments renovating places of historical interest and making the most of beauty spots in order to attract tourists and boost revenues.

However, they should never be so obsessed with making money that they put such sites at risk. Local leaders need to have a long-term view when it comes to the relationship between increasing prosperity and the conservation of the sites.

Haste makes waste and greed leads to shortcuts being taken.

The loss this conflagration caused to the town is estimated to be more than 100 million yuan ($16.52 million), which could have been avoided had the local government had enough measures in place for fire prevention.

Being too obsessed with immediate gains to pay proper attention to long-term and overall plans for healthy and sustainable development tends to be a propensity for some local governments.

This fire should be a warning that short-term plans can go up in smoke.