Officials warn of fire risk on Tomb Sweeping Day

Officials warn of fire risk on Tomb Sweeping Day

5 April 2008

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China — Forestry officials are recommending people find eco-friendly ways to honor their ancestors to avoid fires during the Tomb Sweeping Day.

The festival, which has been elevated to a national holiday this year, falls today. It is customary to mark it by burning ‘fake’ money and paper models of other goods in a show of respect for one’s ancestors.

However, the decision to make the day a national holiday has raised concerns about celebrations.

Cao Qingyao, spokesman for the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said people will have more free time for commemoration activities, making it harder for forestry officials to make sure people are not putting forests at risk of fire.

“Rising temperatures and dry conditions have increased the risks,” Cao said. “It is easy to cause forest fire.”

SFA officials said there are more fire accidents around Tomb Sweeping Day.

Last year, mourning activities caused more than 1,400 fires, resulting in three deaths.

In 2006, there were more than 2,300 fire accidents linked to the holiday, accounting for one-third of the forest fires that year.

Cao urged residents to keep the environment in mind as they mourned their lost relatives.

“People can choose to plant trees or grass, or lay flowers around tombs,” Cao said.

“This will help the country not only save resources, but also prevent air pollution and preserve the ecosystem.”

The severe weather this winter has taken its toll on the observation and monitoring equipment that has been set up to monitor parts of the nation’s forests.

Cao said the central government has set aside a special fund of 30 million yuan ($4.3 million) for forest fire prevention.

He said most of the country’s fire-prevention facilities will be back online by September.

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