Fire department stays busy for Tomb Sweeping festival
By Chi-hao James Lo, The China Post
April 6, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Miaoli County Fire Department received several fire reports in mountain areas and public cemeteries from oceanic townships in Miaoli early yesterday, as a result of tomb sweepers burning traditional ceremonial offerings.
The Tomb Sweeping Festival is a time when people pay honor and gratitude to their ancestors. Descendents pay an annual pilgrimage to the resting place of their ancestors to clean and up keep the grounds, as well as burning joss paper and incense.
As a result of the ceremonial burnings in tomb areas, the department received several fire reports from townships such as Tongxiao, Yuanli Houlong and Zhunan. According to the department, the fires started from burning papers and candles set ablaze by strong winds which also spread the flames to other areas. The wide range made it harder for fire fighters due to reports going into the department at a constant rate.
Fire fighters along the Miaoli County shore line have been reported to have exhausted themselves, at one point calling for back up from other divisions to aid in combating the fires. As of yesterday afternoon, the department received 18 reports of fire in Miaoli country. Fortunately, the fires were put out before any lives or property damage was possible. The department has since advised tomb sweepers to double-check to see if all fires are extinguished before leaving the premises.
Currently, fire reports around tombs and public cemeteries are still frequent when the festival comes around. Private and military cemeteries have regulated the burning of offerings in a concentrated area more than five years ago, as to prevent fire and to be eco-friendly.