Firefighters are again protesting that taking care of snakes, bees, and hornets, falls under the jurisdiction of the agricultural bureau, and shouldn’t be the responsibility of local Fire Departments.
Firefighters first brought the issue up earlier this year, and became more vocal after a 30 year-old firefighter was bitten by a venomous snake in August, and had to have a finger amputated to save his life.
Last month, a group of firefighters threw rubber snakes into the courtyard at the Executive Yuan, in a protest about the issue. They called on the government to return the responsibility of catching snakes and bees to the agriculture bureau.
It was pointed out that fire departments are already understaffed, and that catching, releasing, or disposing of dangerous animals requires specialized skills.
Local media reports written in Chinese use a term usually translated to ‘bees’ but actually covers wasps and hornets. One of the most dangerous animals the firefighters have to deal with is the Asian giant hornet, which is the world’s largest, and perhaps deadliest hornet.
Firefighters also brought up a case from 2011. When hiker Rudy Zhang (張博崴) went missing in the mountains, it was firefighters who were sent for search and rescue operations. Despite their best efforts and more than 10 days of searching, they failed to find the missing man. After facing public criticism over that incident, fire departments pointed out that mountain search and rescue operations should be handled by the Forestry Bureau.
The following excerpt is from an article on The Wild East Magazine about that incident:
Police and rescue workers searched for a combined total of 49 days, and when they wanted to stop, the family paid police NT$130,000 dollars (about US$4300) to continue the search. They looked, however, only along existing mountain trails, disregarding the fact that Rudy’s girlfriend — the last person he spoke with and told he was lost before his cellphone was cut off a half-hour later — repeatedly said she’d heard running water in the background and believed he was near a river. It seems obvious that someone who is lost will not be found on a marked trail, so why were rescuers searching this confined area? And why was the girlfriend’s report completely disregarded?
Huang Kao Su (黃國書), an experienced hiker known for assisting in rescue efforts and his ability to hike in dangerous areas, was able to find Rudy’s body in less than two days Tough questions raised about hiker’s unnecessary death
Firefighters are trained to fight fires, but they are often called upon to take care of emergencies in many fields outside of that original objective. Their members are called upon as front-line troops for many operations.