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Firefighters resume operations to extinguish wildfires in Ulsan

Mar 20,2020
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A fire spreads on a mountain in Ulju County, Ulsan, Thursday night. [YONHAP]
Over 2,500 firefighters, public servants and police resumed operations on Friday to put out wildfires in mountains in Ulsan as winds weakened overnight.

The wildfires started around 1:51 p.m. on Thursday in the hills in Daebok-ri of Ulju County but spread quickly to nearby areas with the strong winds. The Ulsan Metropolitan Government said Friday that a search operation also resumed to find a missing co-pilot of a firefighting helicopter that crashed Thursday afternoon.

The helicopter, leased from a private company by the Ulsan Fire Department, crashed at around 3:30 p.m. on Thursday in a valley near Hoeya Reservoir of Ulju. While the pilot was rescued, the 47-year-old co-pilot remains missing as of Friday morning. The emergency responders conducted four hours of rescue operations on Thursday but failed to find him.

The 56-year-old pilot suffered injuries, but they are not life-threatening.

“We will do our best to put out the mountain fires and search for the missing at the same time,” said Im Ju-taek, an official of the Ulsan Firefighting Department.

According to the Ulsan Metropolitan Government, all public servants of the city and Ulju County Office as well as firefighters and police troops started the firefighting and search operations at 6:30 a.m. Friday for the. Twenty helicopters, 96 fire trucks and 13 vehicles specialized in putting out wildfires were mobilized.

The city said winds had largely weakened overnight, and it will be possible to put out main fires during the day.

As the wildfires spread rapidly on Thursday, the authorities evacuated 4,000 residents of nearby villages. Some returned home Thursday night after the fires started to weaken.

“Fortunately, we haven’t seen any homes damaged by the fires,” an official of the Ulsan Fire Department said. “As of 8 a.m. Friday, about 100 hectares [247 acres] of mountains were destroyed.”

BY LEE EUN-JI [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]