Forest Fire Kills 19 in China’s Sichuan Province

March 31, 2020 Updated: March 31, 2020

BEIJING—A forest fire that is threatening an LPG storage site and two petrol stations has killed 19 people, including 18 firefighters, in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, state news agency Xinhua and city officials reported on March 31.

The fire started on Monday at a farm and spread to nearby mountains because of strong winds, burning 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) as of midnight that night, the report said. Xinhua did not say how the fire was started.

The fire now directly threatens major facilities in downtown Xichang, including a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage station, two gasoline stations, four schools and the city’s largest department store, Xichang’s city government said on its social media account.

Around 690,000 people live in the city, which is about 340 km (210 miles) southwest of provincial capital Chengdu.

Images and video released by Chinese state media showed smoke and flames creeping towards Xichang, with fire trucks lined up on a street dowsing trees to prevent the fire from advancing and burning nearby buildings.

More than 1,200 local residents have been evacuated due to the fire, and more than 2,000 firefighters have been dispatched to put out the fire, Xinhua said.

Almost exactly a year ago in the same area, a blaze high in the rugged forested mountains killed 30 people, 27 of them firefighters and three helpers.

That was China’s worst death toll among firefighters since 2015, when an explosion at a chemical warehouse in the port of Tianjin killed 173 people, most of them firefighters and other first responders.

China has seen a greater number of more deadly forest fires as a result of habitat destruction and human encroachment into formerly wild areas. Weak industrial safety standards and enforcement has also led to frequent deadly accidents.

By Se Young Lee and Lusha Zhang. The Associated Press contributed to this report.