Authorities in Mianning, a county in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, put tight restrictions on residents’ ability to buy more than one lighter or box of matches until the end of June, according to an announcement posted on social media platform WeChat on Sunday.
Minors under 18 years of age will be completely banned from purchasing any fire-lighting products. Just one store in each village or residential community will be designated by authorities to sell the products during the three-month period. The regulation also requires people to present their ID cards upon purchase.
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“In principle, an old lighter should be provided to exchange for the new one,” said the announcement.
But internet users have been quick to criticise the strict measures, believing the government was shirking its responsibility to prevent and control forest fires.
“The government needs to give better public education and professional training, and improve fire control facilities, not limit people from buying lighters. Following their logic, the use of rocks and woods should be banned too because they can also produce sparks!” said one internet user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.
Another one wrote, “A stupid policy, as if someone will be unable to set fire if they buy a lighter by registering their ID. And one lighter for one person? Do people need a lot of lighters to set fire?”
Risks of fires in March and April are high in Mianning county – a mountainous region known for its lush forests.
On Sunday, the county issued a red alert – the highest danger warning – for forest fires ahead of the Ching Ming Festival, a day of remembrance when Chinese people travel to reunite with family at the graves of ancestors to pay their respects.
The festival – known as the tomb-sweeping festival – involves a series of rituals which include the burning of incense, joss paper and money.
Twelve other counties ruled by the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture have joined Mianning in issuing the most serious fire danger alert from March 29 to April 7, when the risk is highest during the festival’s rituals, according to the Department of Emergency Management of Sichuan.
In the past two years, dozens of firefighters have lost their lives battling blazes across the Liangshan prefecture.
More than 30 people died on March 30, 2019, trying to extinguish a fire that swept through Muli Tibetan Autonomous County.
One year later, in the same prefecture, another 19 people died in Xichang.
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This article Chinese authorities feel the heat after restricting lighters for fire safety concerns first appeared on South China Morning Post