Chinese netizens mock Sichuan county ban on lighters and matches to prevent forest fires

30 March 2021

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CHINA – A rule to register those who buy lighters and matches and a ban on the sale of these items to minors, in the forest areas in a county in southwest China’s Sichuan province has sparked a heated debate among netizens, state media reports.

It has been called “the strictest fire prevention order ever issued.”

On Sunday, the Sichuan Mianning County Forest and Grassland Fire Prevention and Suppression Command issued a notice to residents on new restrictions for the purchase of lighters, matches and other items during the grassland fire prevention period.

The order prohibits the sale of lighters, matches and other flammable products to minors under 18 years of age and establishes a limit of one lighter per person. The regulation requires that ID cards must be presented for registration upon purchase, the communist Global Times reports. Sellers are urged to improve awareness on the responsibility of forest and grassland fire prevention.

“Once illegal and irregular business practices are discovered, the market supervision bureau will report to the public security bureau and other departments for severe punishment,” said the notice.

Netizens said this provision is unreasonable. One wrote on Sina Weibo, that “the focus should be on regulating behaviors, rather than prohibiting appliances. Is there no other way?”

Others noted that the move was excessive and worried that it would affect the freedom of consumers. One netizen asked, “Is this right? Do we need to report for approval every time we light a fire in the future?”

However, ocals in Mianning county defended the rule. Some said that the current fire hazards are quite serious and that the rule is understandable.

A local resident said that “people who are not in the area would not know how dry this season is. The mountains are covered in a thick layer of dead branches and leaves, and the wind is too strong and the humidity is below 20 percent. A random spark is the end of it!”

March and April is the traditional fire prevention season in Sichuan’s Daliang Mountain forest area when the risk of forest and grassland fires is high.

As of Sunday, Mianning county had investigated and processed 57 wildfire violations this year, with 51 people subject to administrative detention.

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