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Fire station that lost two firefighters had been understaffed: report

Feb. 13, 2024 - 14:20 By Yoon Min-sik
An official of the National Fire Agency inspects the site of a Jan. 31 fire at a meat packaging plant in Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang Province, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The fire station which lost two of its firefighters in a Jan. 31 fire had been understaffed when the deaths occurred, local media outlets reported Tuesday.

It was recently found that two of the three teams at the Mungyeong Fire Station in North Gyeongsang Province had been running with five members instead of the mandated six. The two deceased firefighters, 27-year-old Kim Su-gwang and 35-year-old Park Su-hun, had been members of the understaffed team 1.

The exact circumstances of how the two firefighters lost their lives in the fire at a meat packing plant in Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang Province is unclear as of now, as the National Fire Agency launched an investigation into the accident just last Monday. But some voice suspicion that the understaffing may have had an effect on the tragedy.

A firefighter told local Yonhap News anonymously that one extra member on the scene contributes substantially to the operation, and that "such deaths on the job can always happen again if the staffing issue is not addressed."

With complaints over understaffing, the authorities dispatched four extra team members to the Mungyeong Fire Station, allowing all three teams to be fully staffed.

Such issue is not exclusive to this particular station, as all but two of the emergency headquarters in the North Gyeongsang area are understaffed.

Incumbent President Yoon Suk Yeol has vowed to reduce the number of civil servants in all fields, criticizing his predecessor Moon Jae-in for the hike in government personnel expenses. The number of firefighters, which went from 44,148 to 66,586 when Moon was in office, has increased moderately since to 66,797 in 2023.