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Gen Z volunteers safeguard city with courage, wisdom in Chongqing rescue

2022/9/2 11:03:28   source:Global Times

Over the past two weeks, the world has witnessed what has been hailed as "Chongqing speed" in people's united action in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality that extinguished more than 10 forest fires in less than 10 days, with no casualties or damage to major facilities reported.

Due to a historic heat wave, the mountain city has seen back to back forest fires in its Fuling, Jiangjin and Banan districts since August 17. Under the leadership of China's emergency management authorities and with efforts from firefighters, police, and tens of thousands of volunteers, all open fires were completely extinguished on August 26.

Stories, pictures and videos regarding this fire rescue action have been widely shared on China's social media. An aerial video that showed a herringbone of yellow flame of fire and a line of white light coming from the headlamps on the head of rescuers in the night view of Jinyun Mountain of Chongqing's Beibei district was one of the most striking footages that captured the unsung heroes in the disaster.

What put out the fire is a "Great Human Wall" that was formed by the organization and support personnel under the mountain, the transport teams delivering materials along the way, and the firefighting troops on the mountain top.

Among them, Generation Z played a notably significant role in the whole rescue work. As college student, delivery man, photographer... these young group rushed to the frontline of the fire scene and cut their way down the steep slope, demonstrating the hope and strength of China's young generation with their strong courage and youthful wisdom.

Mixture of sweat and tears

"Too busy to feel tired" is what Zeng Zixuan, 20, a sophomore at Yangtze Normal University used to describe her state of mind during the fire rescue in Beibei district. Zeng was one of the bricks of the "Great Human Wall" that helped deliver supplies to the fire scene, including fire extinguishers, industrial ice, water, goggles, medicine and other basic supplies.

She left for Beibei with other volunteers in the morning on August 26. After purchasing supplies, the volunteers set off toward the mountain top from the base camp at the bottom of the mountain, which is the first camp of all five stationed along the way up.

Motorcyclist volunteers sent her and others to the third camp, the highest point that can be reached by motorcycle, and from there, they have to further climb up themselves "with both hands and feet" to make sure they don't slip from the steep hill.

She eventually reached the fourth camp near the top of the mountain and started delivering supplies with thousands of others who altogether formed a "human transport belt."

The materials were not easy for girls like Zeng to hold steadily for hours, but she said that she hardly felt the exhaustion until she got back from the rescue scene.

"When you're so focused on the rescue itself, you don't even have time to feel tired."

Echoing Zeng's feeling, Chen Youyou, another volunteer in Beibei said the only sound in his head while he was driving the volunteers and materials with his motorcycle is "I have to be faster."

The mountain roads in Chongqing are steep and narrow, only a meter wide at their narrowest points, making motorcycle the best transportation. But in the scorching August heat, temperatures exceeded 40 C in the city. It was even hotter in the mountains.

"Above my head, the sun was blazing. Under my feet, embers were burning. It felt like the temperature was over 50 C. My head felt like it was on fire under the helmet," said the 24-year-old delivery man, adding that he had to pour cold water on his head so that he won't fall asleep.

On the mountain top, the firefighting team faced an even tougher test, as Nie Youyuan, the leader of the chainsaw operator team who is called as "Captain Nie," spent three days and four nights on the mountain on rescue.

"When we went to cut the barrier at night, we didn't even know whether it was solid ground or cliff ahead of us. We can only trust our feelings," said the 29-year-old housing agent. "Into the nights, wearing a headlamp, we crumbled all the way up, carrying chainsaws and machetes to cut our way up."

At the very beginning of the rescue effort, there was no supply at the top of the mountain. While Nie was sharing bread with the rest of the team, he saw a 21-year-old young man on his team "wiping tears while eating the bread."

"I guess he was tired at the moment. But even so, he didn't quit and stayed with the team until the end," Nie said. "I was very impressed. He showed me the fighting blood in the bones of young people in Chongqing."

'Moments of hope'

In the camera of GK, a photographer born in 1992, the rescue of the Beibei fire was well organized with an "unimaginable united effort."

"What I know is that in the last few days, almost everyone from Beibei district was there [at the rescue scene], even 8-year-olds," GK told the Global Times. "Helping with the rescue, doing logistics, cooking, moving supplies, everyone is in one mind. When I witnessed all this, I realized that these footages need to be recorded," he said.

He said there were 10,000 to 20,000 volunteers in Beibei every day for the rescue, and they would first report to the street office and await arrangement. But there was more spontaneous organization of the public, and the power of such spontaneous organization was "incredibly strong."

With such firm support, the firefighting teams on the mountain conducted what was called a "final battle" on August 25.

Nie's chainsaw operator team organized a 100-member brigade, which worked on the mountain until the night, and then assisted the firefighting police to extinguish the fire.

In the early morning hours of August 26, the day the final action ended. Nie and a group of teammates sat on the top of the mountain, that's when he captured one of his "most unforgettable moments" in his life.

"The sun had just come up, and the helicopter was flying at the top of the rising sun. The sun was peeking out of the clouds a little bit. That image literally stung my heart. I thought to myself - this is hope," he said.

In the eyes of 45-year-old Wang Yongqiang, he also sees the "hope of his country" in young volunteer teams like Nie's, and he was inspired by the spirit of the younger generation.

Wang, who runs a food sales company in Chongqing, spent two days delivering relief supplies to the front line before heading into the mountains with other young volunteers carrying more than 30 kilograms of equipment, patrolling the hills in search of open fires and putting out fires.

"When you see people younger than you volunteering there, you won't have any excuse not going up to the mountain," Wang said.

In the early morning hours of August 26, the Beibei mountain fires were finally put out after days of sleepless fire-fighting operations by tens of thousands of people.

GK made a video of all the images he recorded on camera during the mountain fire rescue in Chongqing and named it I fell in love with a city in ten days. The young photographer's video has received more than 100,000 likes and shares on the platform WeChat.

"What I want to show through the video is the 'red rock soul' of Chongqing people, and how China's Gen-Z power is shaping the country's future," he told the Global Times.

In the young volunteers' stories, they have surely showed their personalities to the world -inspiring, fearless, and collaborative. 

Firefighters, armed police and volunteers transfer fire extinguishers in Xiema subdistrict of Beibei District of Chongqing, southwest China, Aug. 26, 2022.Photo:Xinhua

Firefighters, armed police and volunteers transfer fire extinguishers in Xiema subdistrict of Beibei District of Chongqing, southwest China, Aug. 26, 2022.Photo:Xinhua

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