Thursday, November 19, 2015

Chia Keng Volunteer Fighting Unit: A recollection

This is the story/  article which appeared in the Chinese newspapers about the Kampong Chia Keng Vlunteer Fire Fighting Unit formed in the 1950s by leaders of the Chia Keng village. It features Bernard Chiang an old boy of the school who recalls its formation and purpose.

Bernard's father and other leaders formed the Volunteer Fire Fighting Unit as a junior member in 1963 when he was 12 years old. He joined many villagers o be trained in fire fighting, first aid and evacuation. Those days, they had to be self-supportive and alert at all times to prevent rampant fire from spreading because all houses were made of combustible materials like wood and attap tree leaves.

The worst fire outbreak near the kampong was an inferno at the warehouse near Sirat Road where about 200 villagers took turns to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby attap houses.

The villagers were very innovative. They invented mini fire fighting engines similar to the Red Rhine because there was no proper road access for largger fire engines to move into the villages.

The water source came from large open drains and fishing ponds. The mobile water pumps were carried by a team of 4 people who used their pumps to draw water from these water sources.

The location of the kampong is now occupied y Serangoon Stadium and the surrounding areas. This fighting unit performed a role very similar to the present day Volunteer Civil Defence force.

Soh Kai Guan, an old Gabrielite boy and Vice-Principal of St Gabriel's was also brought up in the village. he recalls using to live in fear whenever a fire breaks out in the middle of the night. Thanks to such volunteer forces and people like Bernard, tthey could sleep sounder and safer. There was even a fire warning system built.

Be vigilant at all time.
That was told to all villagers of former Chia Keng Village.We have to be alert and standby to fight fire round the clock.A spark of fire will wipe up the whole village and cause total destructions.Villagers young and old were trained to fight fire,first aid and save lives.What was admirable was the existence of true Kampong Spirit where everyone regardless of race and religion were strongly united and took care of one another for the sake of survival and happiness.The elders in the village were very passionate about the residents welfare,they invented a few mobile mini fire engines long before the "Red Rhino" was born.Built an observatory tower to locate the fire outbreak and sound the alarm.
In 1963 I joined the kampong fire fighting unit at the age of 12 yrs as a junior member until the village was acquired for resettlement in the 80s.The area is now occupied by the Serangoon Sports Complex and HDB flats.

Hope we can revive the Kampong Spirits to counter terrorism - FB Post, Bernard Chiang, 18 Nov 2015.