A fire that broke out in Lijiang on March 11 has destroyed a 600-square meter section of the old town. The blaze, which started at 8:30pm, required the efforts of multiple fire brigades and hundreds of passersby before it was brought under control.
Firefighters were hampered by low water pressure from municipal fire hydrants as well as the narrowness of the old town's lanes. In total 48 fireman and seven fire trucks arrived on the scene at Lijiang's Guangyi Jie (光义街).
Fire trucks were not able to move close enough to the burning buildings to provide assistance. Locals, pedestrians and tourists helped firefighters put out the fire by bailing water from the city's canals by hand.
The fire was brought under control roughly two hours after it began. Local news reports and a flood of Weibo posts indicate at least 13 businesses were damaged in the fire, which consumed both retail and residential spaces. An estimated 1,000 people helped fight the blaze and no injuries have been reported.
Lijiang Old Town was rebuilt after being leveled by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in February 1996. The quake killed 322 people and left more than 300,000 homeless. Rebuilding efforts, funded by the Chinese government and the World Bank, resulted in Lijiang being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997.
The city has since become one of China's premier domestic tourist destinations. Its popularity with travelers is due to a combination of the town's scenic vistas and its traditional-style Naxi architecture — most of which is wooden.
The cause of Monday's fire has yet to be announced. In response, Lijiang party secretary Luo Jie (罗杰) convened an emergency task force to investigate both the fire's origin and also plan ways to prevent similar blazes in the future.
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