Wildfire in South Korea forces thousands to evacuate

The fire burned approximately 135 homes

Fire near Goseong South Korea
Fire near Goseong in South Korea. Screengrab from MBC video.

A wildfire described as the worst to hit South Korea in years was pushed by a strong wind from city to city Thursday, prompting President Moon Jae-in to declare a national emergency.

At least one person was killed by the fire while another died after being struck by falling object pushed over by the wind. Eleven people were treated for injuries.

The fire started Thursday night near Goseong, a city on the east coast about 15 miles south of the border with North Korea.

Below is an excerpt from an article published Friday at NPR:

The main fire is now nearly under control according to President Moon Jae-in, who visited the area Friday. Taking note of the hundreds of homes and buildings that have reportedly been destroyed, Moon urged government officials to “take extra care of displaced victims who — after having lost their homes in an instant — may now find time to catch their breath.”

“Moon’s office said he would cooperate with North Korea on fighting the fire if it spread northward,” NPR’s Anthony Kuhn reports from Seoul. “But as it happened, the winds were blowing to the south.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Friday approximately 135 homes and 525 hectares (1,297 acres) burned. About 60 helicopters, 300 vehicles and 17,700 firefighting personnel were being deployed, the ministry said.

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Police say sky lantern caused fire and explosion at oil storage facility

A large tank holding gasoline exploded in Goyang, Korea.

sky lantern fire
A police spokesperson speaks during a press conference Tuesday. Another officer is holding a sky lantern that police believe caused a fire at an oil storage facility. (Yonhap)

Police detained a man in Goyang, Korea Monday for allegedly starting a fire that destroyed a tank holding 2.66 million liters of gasoline, enough to fill 250 tank trucks.

“Surveillance camera footage showed the fire started after the lantern landed on the grass,” a police official said. “We questioned people living around the area and confirmed the man launched the sky lantern.”

The police believe the sky lantern may have started the fire when it fell on the lawn of the oil storage facility, causing flames that later spread into the ventilation system of the oil tank, causing the explosion.

These dangerous devices use burning material to loft a small paper or plastic hot air balloon into the air. The perpetrator has no control over where it lands. Usually the fire goes out before it hits the ground, but not always. Sometimes the envelope catches fire while in flight. Numerous fires have been started by sky lanterns. Even if they don’t ignite a fire, they leave litter on the ground. Metal parts have been picked up by hay balers causing serious problems when fed to livestock. They are banned in most U.S. states and many countries.

Wildfire spreads across border from North Korea into South Korea

Strong winds swept a wildfire in North Korea across the heavily armed border with South Korea on Monday, prompting a suspension of cross-border movements into a jointly-run factory park in the North.

About 50 firefighters and three helicopters were battling the fire on the south side of the Demilitarised Zone border, according to an official at the South Korean border town of Paju, adding that there were no reports of casualties. Access to the area is usually restricted.