The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is an ethnically diverse country. Being a developing country, Myanmar has been stepping up to reform its economy since the previous administrations. With a constructive effort, Myanmar has gradually improved. In keeping abreast of the development of the international countries, fire hazard management is of great importance in modern building and rural industrial development. The fire brigade provides the frontline rescue services in protecting the lives and property of the people. Regardless of the different religious beliefs, languages and skin colours, every country has its own fire brigade. Every country has different patterns of politics, economics, education and health. Nonetheless, every firefighter across the globe is ready to serve the people’s lives, all of them perform the same, and they are committed to the job.
History of firefighters
It is noted that the history of firefighters began in ancient Rome under the rule of Augustus in the 3rd Century. It was said firefighting attempts could be traced to ancient Egypt before that. Marcus Licinius Crassus created the first Roman fire brigade. He organized a fire brigade to rush to the fire scene and set the price to extinguish the fire. In 60 AD, Emperor Nero formed firefighters called the Vigiles to put out fires using water buckets and pumps.
Vigiles patrolled the streets of Rome and served as a fire rescue team and police force. When there was a fire, the firefighters would line up to the nearest water source and pass buckets hand in hand to the fire.
In 1666, a great fire started in a bakery owned by Thomas Farina and the importance of firefighters and the fire equipment was noticed. People began to find ways to remedy the loss of property in the fire. The first fire insurance company called Fire Office was established in 1667.
The first US President, George Washington, also served as a volunteer firefighter in Virginia. Benjamin Franklin also helped found the first fire service department in Philadelphia in 1736. Also, he was a volunteer firefighter before then.
Then, the insurance company hired private fire service departments to combat the fire due to the lack of state-sponsored fire service departments, leading to the competition of the private firefighters.
Maintaining the capacity for an act of heroism
The first-ever organized municipal fire brigade in the world was established in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1824, led by James Braidwood. The London Fire Brigade was established in 1833, and James Braidwood was the department’s chief. The world leaders recognized the firefighters, and Winston Churchill held the firefighters in high esteem and called them Angels with Grimy faces during World War II. Firefighters have been the selfless and bravest human beings in the past years. They keep the act of bravery, courage and heroism to date.
The resonant and echoing sound of the gong in Bagan as a preventive fire measure
There has been evidence of Myanmar’s fire preventive activities since the Bagan Dynasty in 1044 AD. King Anawrahta (reigned 1044-1077 AD) was a noble King acquiring martial arts skills and a heart of gold. He was sagacious enough to take preventive measures against fire hazards. The history of Myanmar’s fire service began in the King Anawrahta era. About 663 fire service crews were appointed to take fire safety measures in the palace. They gave a warning to the people by hitting a gong for the time limit of fire in use. Onomatopoeic words for the resonant and echoing sound of the gong (Thaw Thaw Nyan Bagan Mee Saw Maung) were noted from the duties of the fire service crew in the palace.
Fire safety practices without having a bias
King Swar Sawke released a statement regarding the fire hazard that the mayor, clerk, prison warden and staff must interrogate those suspects and prevent fire and crimes in the palace’s proximity. The king also made the royal families participate in the fire safety practice without having bias.
Strict rules for fire safety
King Alaungpaya, the founder of the Konbaung Dynasty, released a statement concerning the fire outbreak on the 1st waxing of Taboung 1119 ME that “every house had to take fire prevention and preparedness such as putting water pots at the top of the roof and keeping fire safety hooks at their house. People had to keep alert to the gong sound which was meant to warn people not to have fire spark and smoke after cooking time. The house owner would be arrested at the mayor’s office if a kiln could still ignite. People cannot smoke on roads. Firefighter crew must patrol five times a day”. Small towers were built at the moats, gates and walls. Princes and garrisons must monitor the fire safety activities.
Historical documents regarding law enforcement on fire safety
King Mindon appointed four foreigners as fire brigade members under the names of Paitsa, Sabei, Hninsi and Phyuleik. The smoke covered the whole palace of King Mindon while opening a box from Italy. Those four firefighters were extinguished. Then, some European countries donated two fire engines and firefighting equipment to King Mindon.
The market fire broke out in the palace’s backyard on the 6th waxing of Taboung 1235 ME. Even Prince Makaya led the firefighting troops. Over 700 houses were destroyed in the market fire, so King Mindon sentenced South Mayor U Pesi and North Mayor U Tha Oh with legs chained. Also, Kanni minister, was dismissed from the position due to incompetence. There was evidence of strict rules and law enforcement regarding fire safety.
Remembering our fallen heroes
Fire can burn the city, and the ancient Kings were aware of it and strictly monitored that. The world is facing natural disasters linked to climate change and global warming in the digital age. The consequences of torrential rain, strong wind, earthquake, volcano eruption, cyclones and tsunami disasters are significant challenges for the world leaders. The digital sector is of vital importance in overcoming unprecedented natural disasters. Even the developed countries are facing a series of difficulties. Meanwhile, the developing countries with a lack of advanced technology are undoubtedly experiencing more damage and loss.
Being a developing country, Myanmar falls short of technology and equipment in fire hazardous and disaster risk management. Nevertheless, the country managed to develop the skills and attributes of the firefighters. Myanmar fire brigade is an institution that stands proudly in history. They did heroic deeds by risking their lives in hazardous fires and natural disasters. As a result, they were honoured for their selfless and heroic actions and left a mark on people’s hearts.
Municipal fire services
The Municipal Act was drawn up in 1874 during the British rule in Myanmar, and municipal governance was implemented with municipal committees in the big cities across Myanmar. The committees were formed in Yangon, Toungoo and Mawlamyine cities on 31 July 1874, Pathein city on 5 November, and Pyay on 12 November. On 31 July 1883, Yangon Municipal Committee organized a municipal fire brigade. The Municipal Act was amended in 1884. The Municipality performed to have an adequate water supply for fire prevention activities in Yangon city. The steam fire engine, firefighting equipment and pump were used in the firefighting training courses. A fire station was also established. The Central Fire Station, the first-ever iron-frame building in Yangon constructed by spending 4,000 rupees in 1912, was installed with a blue plaque and listed in the heritage of Yangon as a colonial-era landmark. It was built in the Edwardian architectural style. Yangon Central Fire Station has historical significance and could upgrade from a horse-drawn fire engine to a fuel or steam fire engine.
All-Myanmar Volunteer Fire Brigade with delegates from 19 districts
The first all-Myanmar volunteer fire brigade conference was held at the Zenat Islamic Girls’ School Hall on 5 May 1946, attended by 197 delegates from 19 districts. The patrons; General Aung San, U Ba Cho, U Ba Jam, Thakin Mya, U Ba Pe Gyi, U Soe Nyunt, Hinthada U Mya, U Tin (Myanma Alin), U Mya (Pyawbwe), Thakin Than Tun, U Ba Win and Bandula U Sein attended the conference. U Hla Kyaw was appointed as Chairman of the All-Myanmar Volunteer Fire Brigade at the conference. U Hla Kyaw, chair of the central executive committee, vice-chair U Thant (Letpadan), secretary U Hla and executive members U Tun Yin, U Soe Win, U Tun Sein, U Ba Tun (Hinthada), U Ohn Shwe (Zigon), U Aye Shwe (Pyapon), U Ngwe Kyi (Dawei) and U Ba Yee (Paungde) were appointed respectively.
General Aung San’s instruction at the conference
The conference was attended by national leader General Aung San, who instructed that the “duty of every firefighter was to have the most important attributes of firefighters. They were honoured for their act of bravery and heroism. Fire brigades must be organized in each district. The establishment of the fire brigade also promoted tenacity, humility, accountability, excellence in communication, self-control and persistence. They rescued the people in hazardous fires even by risking their lives. They were the real heroes. Fire hazard was terrifying, and firefighting troops should be organized in each ward. Even women had better participate in it”.
Myanmar Fire Service Day was designated on 5 May 1946 to commemorate the establishment date of the Myanmar Fire Brigade. Myanmar marks Fire Service Day every year.
Balancing MET in harmony
During the 75th Myanmar Fire Service Day (Diamond Jubilee), the Union Minister for Home Affairs remarked that the State formed a fire brigade to extinguish fire, protect the lives and property of the people, and implement industrial protection natural protection disasters and other emergency services.
Myanmar Fire Brigade has been implementing four primary duties and functions; fire precaution & fire prevention, fire extinction, search and rescue services, and humanitarian and social services.
He addressed that Myanmar Fire Brigade must excel in man power (efforts and capacity of human beings), equipment power, and technology power in harmony by aiming to keep abreast of the development with international firefighting organizations and future development.
Seven tasks of the Fire Services Department
Myanmar Fire Brigade was organized in 1946, and its diamond jubilee day fell on 5 May 2021. This year, it is the 76th Anniversary of the Myanmar Fire Brigade. Myanmar Fire Brigade is carrying out seven tasks; (1) fire extinction, search and rescue services, administration, organizational abilities of the firefighting members, (2) repair, overhaul and maintaining operational readiness of fire engine and equipment, (3) educating the public for the awareness of fire and natural disaster, (4) increasing number of reserve and specialized firefighters and offering training courses, (5) conducting research on the operation management system, firefighting technology and rescue technology to keep abreast of the development with international organizations and providing training for all the firefighters to enhance their skills and knowledge, (6) making official departments, private institutions and businesses comply with the law for fire risk assessment guidance; in the exercise of the power conferred by the provisions of Myanmar Fire Brigade Law and by-law, and (7) enhancing the capacity of the firefighters to become the strong reserve force for the State.
Objectives of Myanmar Fire Brigade
Myanmar Fire Brigade is endeavouring to protect the lives and property of the people in the State and perform fire prevention, safety and rescue and service for environmental hazards with 24-hour service and mitigation measures and accomplish its duties and functions. Firefighters are committed to their duties. Additionally, five objectives of the Myanmar Fire Brigade are protecting lives, property and cultural heritage of the State from fire and natural disasters, firefighting, fire prevention, search and rescue activities, humanitarian, social services, raising public awareness campaigns effectively in order to have public participation in emergency response, and assisting in the State’s Rule of Law, Peace and Security.
Titles and Honorary awards
The mottos of the Myanmar Fire Brigade are consciousness, fidelity and bravery. They act in the “Know Quickly, Go Fast and Extinguish Quickly” system. Myanmar firefighters have four abilities; firefighting ability, search and rescue ability, administration ability and organization ability.
Since its establishment, 76 firefighters have been awarded for the act of bravery. A total of 231 Myanmar fire brigade members received outstanding awards. For the national awards and honours, Thray Si Thu, Wunna Kyaw Htin and Thiri Pyan Chi titles were given to the head of the departments. The outstanding members were awarded Ye Thiha, Ye Thura, Ye Bala, Ye Thurein, Ye Kyaw Swar and Ye Kyaw Thu Titles. Four Fire Brigade members were awarded honorary awards by the Commander in Chief of Defence Services for outstanding performance in rescue work in the Soe Moe Kyaw ferry capsize.
The firefighting abilities improved on account of the cooperation with international organizations. Myanmar Fire Brigade joined hands with international institutions in fire and disaster prevention activities. It had the rescue training from Singapore at the PyinOoLwin firefighting training school, firefighting training in Japan and earthquake awareness education, rescue training in India, sending scholars to Poland, research collaboration with China, cooperation with Thailand in disaster risk management, cooperation with the US in disaster risk reduction and partnerships with Republic of Korea and France. Myanmar Fire Brigade provides courses regarding capacity development and technical skills to produce the new generations of firefighters.
Well-equipped Myanmar Fire Brigade with advanced technology, skills, competence
Fire is one of the Five Enemies of Buddhists. It’s also used in their daily life. Natural disasters (water, land, mountain, tide, rainfall, cyclones and earthquake) also destroy the lives and property of people. Advanced technology and firefighting equipment play a pivotal role in mitigating the loss in fires and disasters.
Myanmar Fire Brigade enhanced its capacity and tried to meet the needs with a fleet of Fire trucks and equipment as it connected to the international firefighters and exchanged technology and practices. Thus, the improvement of the Fire Brigade with advanced fire engines and equipment assisted in fire and disaster risk reduction efforts. This article is written to mark the 76th Anniversary of the Myanmar Fire Brigade. The fallen heroes will be remembered, and they left a lasting legacy through generations.