Young Chinese Firefighters Fall from Building in Shanghai

Two Chinese firefighters in Shanghai fall off the 13th floor of a building while responding to a residential building fire.


Below is currently the #2 post of the week on leading Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo…

From Sina Weibo:

@新闻晨报: Post-90s Generation Firefighter Heroes, Held Each Others’ Hands As They Fell From The Building! [蜡烛] — Today [May 1] around 2pm, a fire broke out on the 13th floor of a high-rise residential building on Longwu Road in Xuhui district [Shanghai]. During the firefighting, two firefighters fell from the 13th floor from a flashover/backdraft and its heatwave, and heroically sacrificed their lives after emergency efforts to save their lives after they were sent to the hospital were unsuccessful. They were Qian Lingyun, both 1991; Liu Jie, born 1994, both of the Xuhui Firefighting Squad. Both had entered the squad in 2012 December, private first class rank. Reporter: Zhu Ling.


Comments from Sina Weibo:


We don’t need this kind of hero. Please earnestly clean up group-rentals [people who crowd into a single rental to save money] as well as improve the abilities of on-scene commanders to respond to o changing circumstances [so those he command don’t suffer such fates]. [蜡烛][蜡烛][蜡烛]


I wish people would stop using “post-90s generation” when describing things. The post-90s generation is starting to become the main power [labor force] of society.


@钱凌云Ethan Brother, this was a photo taken for you by a passerby. You did not abandon your comrade-in-arms, and you fought until the very end. All of your friends throughout the country mourn you, for you are a true hero, and may your heroic spirit rest in peace. [蜡烛]


Hmph, the leaders definitely wouldn’t go up to save people; it’s always the lower soldiers who charge to the front lines, [their families] given some compensation and the title of being a hero after they die, but what use is that? Nobody’s pain is worse than that of their parents!!!


These two photographs are very disturbing. Your short lives have exhibited unlimited value. [蜡烛]


One of them is the same age as me, and one is 3 years younger than me, both at an age filled with dreams. It is truly sad. To think of their parents is truly heartbreaking, and I am truly tearing up right now. Indeed, this is a sacrifice for the lives of others, worthy of our respect. Live and cherish your lives, because having life is not easy. Rest in peace.


All accidents are not accidents, for there is always a reason/cause in them. When safety measures are inadequate, not having something bad happen would be strange, and with our countrymen’s attitude of doing things just barely enough to get by, there will be many more lives sacrificed for no reason in the future. [拜拜]


One of my coworkers lives in this very residential community. His son was on the scene at the time. Before falling, the two heros had used clothes or a bed sheet to signal to those below. However, their commanding officer did not see, because he was arguing about something with someone else at the moment. Sigh! They used the last few seconds of their lives to signal something to those below, but their commander… Please be focused when lives are at stake, for when one falls short, it will affect everyone else.


Looking at the comments, if it were due to an external force [a flashover/backdraft, sudden blast], the probability of them immediately holding each others’ hands is too small. It is more likely that one fell trying to save the other one. Otherwise, it is impossible for them to so quickly hold each others’ hands. My respects to the heroes. May they rest in peace.


In comparison to those post-90s generation who show selfies of them pursing their lips pretending to be cute while getting their hair done, this is a life! This is a serviceman!

Below is currently the #2 post of the day…

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From Sina Weibo:

@央视新闻: No Matter Where You Are, Please Help Send Off These Two Firefighters Who Sacrificed Their Lives on Labor Day — Today at 10am, the funeral/memorial service for firefighters Qian Lingyu and Liu Jie, who sacrificed their lives on May 1st in Shanghai, was held at the Longhua funeral parlor. They are being memorialized as revolutionary martyrs [an honorary designation in China]. Both were post-90s generation, and were among the first to rush up to the floor that was on fire, but fell from the 13th floor from a flashover/backdraft and its heatwave… Qian Lingyu and Liu Jie, remember them! Our respects! 泪 (CCTV reporters Liang Zhiwei and Yu Xiang)


Normally when they are working, no one takes notice or pays attention. Now that they’ve sacrificed their lives, they are publicized fiercely. In a year, they will be forgotten, with no one paying any attention to their families. This is our propaganda system, where anything that gets some attention is treated like a drama film. When something is popular, extraordinary attention is placed on it, but when something is “cold” [not popular], then no attention is paid. Instead of desperately propagandizing the death of the heroes, why not give the heroes more pay while they’re alive.


They are already gone. The important thing now is to take care of their families.


[蜡烛] Someone once said that firefighters are the branch of the military [in China] that has the most lives sacrificed during times of peace. For them, I click upvote. I hope the government can take care of their parents and wives, so they can rest in peace. Additionally, I call on everyone to pay attention to safety when using fire, for themselves and for others…


The departed have departed, but the families are still here. What the government should do is take care of their families!


When I saw the two words “maternal grandfather” [the 8th picture], I began crying uncontrollably.


[蜡烛] So young, so heartbreaking, why were there no safety measures? Why have no leaders taken responsibility? Who was issuing commands on the scene? Apart from the official media stirring up sympathy, shouldn’t it also investigate responsibility?


The government must take good care of their family.


Only your youth is immortal.


Hopefully they aren’t only children.


Not only should they be given compensation in terms of honors, the country [government] should also be concerned with the future of their family and children. For example, providing various kinds of welfare, etc.


I hope the government can take good care of their families on their behalf! [蜡烛]

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • lonetrey / Dan

    I can’t imagine what must hve gone through their minds as they fell… Seems to me one tried his hardest to hold onto his comrade in their final moments.

    Something really touching about that, but i can’t really put my finger on it. I guess I just really appreciate how he tried to do something for his friend, even as they fell.

    • mr.wiener

      It is a very human thing. I feel the same way… Saddened , but somehow uplifted.

    • Irvin

      When I went bungee jumping I wanted to hold on to the god that didn’t exist too, when you fall it’s a terrifying thing that make you do some crazy shit.

    • loki

      he was thinking….. “shit!, I can totally see my house from here…”

      the other guy was thinking.. “oh man I can totally see his house from . here… wonder if he saw it too..”

    • Rick in China

      Maybe he was trying to scramble to get the other guy beneath him to soften the impact?

      • KamikaziPilot

        Haha, I’m guessing you’re joking, or not?

        • Rick in China

          Mostly. Just trying to provide an alternative perspective to view the same situation, ala “tried his hardest to hold onto his comrade” could be “scrambled to get his comrade beneath him as a cushion”, provable difference? None.

          Jokes aside though, really unfortunate these two lives ended so young doing public service.

    • KamikaziPilot

      Well I can guess what was going through their minds, probably pure panic. I got to disagree with the touching part, I bet they just instinctively tried to grab whatever they could as they were falling. Of course I could be wrong, as I don’t know what they were thinking but that’s what I would be doing. Not sure if they had time to think that much, just act instinctively. RIP to both of them.

      • Kai

        The thought of them providing some reassurance to each other in their last moments is touching, but like a lot of the Chinese netizens, hard to say if true. As a Chinese netien said, it may be that one was about to fall and the other reached out to try to grab him, only to be pulled over himself. That’s also touching. It may also be that the angle of the photo merely makes it look like they are holding onto each other.

    • don mario

      from the comments it seems that they were trying to get their boss to save them with a sheet, but he ignored them. would have to guess they were focussed on that.

  • Jahar

    I also don’t get the need to specify “post 90’s generation.”

    • BillBo

      What I don’t understand is, shouldn’t it be “post 80’s generation” or
      just “90’s generation”? Or maybe just stick with Gen Y?? Because to me
      at least, when you’re saying post 90’s you mean something that has
      happened after the 90’s.

      But I agree with you too, I can understand giving their ages as media reports anywhere in the world would do this but trying to shoehorn them into 10 year “generations” seems kind of superfluous to me.

      • Irvin

        They’re trying to discriminate the other generations or they themselves felt their generation had be discriminated against to they need to represent constantly.

      • Rick in China

        In Chinese when they say it, they’ll say “Post-1990”, not “90s” in the same way we say it. The English translation just fails :) in Chinese I think it’s something like “九零后“

      • Kai

        Post-90s cuz they were born in the 90s. Post-80s would be those born in the 80s. Gen Y is an English term and has different sociological connotations.

        Edit: I see the confusion. You feel being born in the 90s would be after or “post” the “80s”, hence “post-80s”. 90后 most specifically means “born after it became 1990”. That said, I think “post-90s generation” is widely used as the translation, but I can see how it might confuse people first encountering it without knowing what it’s about.

    • Henry C

      In China there’s some sense of collective identity associated with which decade you’re born in. Saying post-90s emphasizes how young these fallen firefighters are. It also gives the story an extra layer of depth because it shows that post-90s are not all materialistic and selfish, as they are often stereotyped to be. Also, referring to them as post-90s will elicit more interest and feeling from fellow post-90s Chinese.

      Here’s an example of the importance of generational identity in China, I went to a theme restaurant in Beijing where you literally have to prove that you are post-80s generation–born between 1980 and 1989. (As an aside, as the only foreign-looking person, I of course was the butt of “look at our Xinjiang pengyou” jokes from the entertainers, but it was all good fun, centered around the theme of certain generational experiences, such as songs that were popular when the patrons were in their teens). Generational identity is important enough to many Chinese young adults that it can serve as the theme of a popular restaurant where a seat must be booked at least a week in advance. Chinese society has its own unique characteristics, as all societies do. As foreigners, we are apt to misunderstand many things we observe here. Therefore, I think we should try to understand why the editor specified that the firefighters are post-90s generation rather than immediately assume it was unnecessary or a bad choice.

      • Kai

        Heh, there’s 70后 restaurant near where I am in Shanghai.

      • Paul Schoe

        Thanks for the example. Really interesting: “Generational identity is important enough to many Chinese young adults that it can serve as the theme of a popular restaurant where a seat must be booked at least a week in advance.“.

  • Free Man

    My first thought: ok, some hero died doing his duty.

    Second thought:
    I am no expert on fire fighting, but I think to be blown out of a window during such an event requires someone to seriously fuck up by opening a door/window without double checking. Dying while someone screws up makes no heros, just proves idiotic foolish behaviour of those who screwed up.

    • mr.wiener

      We don’t know the full facts so it is pointless to speculate on who is at blame and what they should have done ( woulda,shoulda, coulda) all we know is that they died trying to protect and serve and as they fell they … reached out for each other. To me it is very poignant and … human. So sad, but also strangly magnificent.
      On another site I saw this same story, and some people said that showing this photo was in questionable taste , but to me it is their legacy.

      • Irvin

        It’s never pointless to speculate where the internet is concern.

    • 五毛Partay!

      It’s actually pretty common for a high rise building to have a smoke explosion. One of the reasons we associate firemen with axes, isn’t only so they can chop down doors and bust windows, its also so they could perform whats called “ventilation” to prevent smoke explosions.

      • Free Man

        Than it seems like someone left his axe at home…

      • don mario

        its also pretty common for buildings in china to have accidents because they are not built as safely as they should.

    • don mario

      we wont know the full story. as its china chances are this spin is all we are required to put our focus on. in the comments someone suggested it was a room full of people living together that caused it somehow. could be that, we all know stuff is built shoddily in china. how could it be built safely at the rate that the country is being built? its simply not possible. all we can do is speculate, like any china news story.

    • Angie Mac

      Two stories come to mind. Somewhat related, but not really.

      A British friend of ours, teaching in HangZhou told us the story of how the fire department (a week after a tragic fire in Shanghai) came to his school to teach fire safety. After a short talk, they taught the students, in the event of a fire, RUN! Get out as fast as you can!

      The other story was my husband’s. He had a really funny story regarding, what he referred to as, “The Keystone Firemen.” There was a small fire, a car was parked next to the hydrant, so they went to the next available one. After plugging it in, unraveling the hose, they realized the hose was too short. They actually tried tugging on it. He had photos and all. Oh yeah, and the hose had MASSIVE holes in it. The street was like a river. It sounded quite spectacular.

      I guess the point is, something stupid could have happened here. I mean, it does seem unusual to be blown out of the window. Not something you hear often. Regardless, these poor blokes died trying to save lives and dote the right thing. In China especially, that certainly makes you a hero.

  • Rick in China

    This comment is absolutely right..and not just for China, but most countries:

    “Normally when they are working, no one takes notice or pays attention. Now that they’ve sacrificed their lives, they are publicized fiercely. In a year, they will be forgotten, with no one paying any attention to their families. This is our propaganda system, where anything that gets some attention is treated like a drama film.”

    It’s unfortunate how we remember serial killers, but people like these two are used for political means and quickly forgotten. I’m not sure how, but this sort of social habit needs to be changed…

    • loki

      look what you did man!… now I got nothing to say …. sheesh…

  • loki

    you know someone at foxconn is so happy its not one of their buildings

  • Stefan

    Seeing the picture I get 9/11 vibes….

    • Boris

      Seriously, you need to stop trolling.

    • KamikaziPilot

      Oh c’mon Stefano, you got to come up with something better than that.

  • Q Ball

    What happened? Did they jump off on purpose?

  • Henry C

    I would suggest that any death on the job is heroic. If these men are heroes because they died while trying to save a burning building, then the coal miners who die every year are also heroes because they died in the process of extracting coal for the benefit of anyone who uses energy (everyone). The best way to commemorate these men is to increase safety standards and training for all dangerous jobs, as well as increase compensation for the families of all fallen laborers.

  • Claude

    Jesus Christ, I just heard there was another mass stabbing at a rail station in Guangzhou. China meltdown.

  • Markoff

    what’s more important is cause of the fire which is supposed to be by overload of wiring which is really surprising when you put 20+ people into few bedrooms apartment, if gov would be doing something against this these tragedies would occur less frequently

    • don mario

      is that a government problem? i thought that was chinese peoples own choice to live like ‘ants’ in the city to save up for their village back home?

  • Jahar

    not referring to individuals.

  • don mario

    your point is fair but in china you are never going to get the full facts i’m afraid.

  • Michael Timothy

    Love and respect for those who risk their lives in service to others.

  • whuddyasack

    Indeed. Much ado about nothing.

  • jianfei

    GRAVITY is a terrible thing!

  • jianfei

    I don’t know if I am X/Y/Z but I look amazing!

  • Angie Mac

    Right or wrong, you haven’t spent much time in China (or you haven’t been paying attention) if your first reaction to any given Chinese tragedy isn’t “Ok. Who screwed up and how’d they do it this time?”

    The point is, I think your assumption that Free Man is an asshole (for making an assumption) is unfounded.

  • L. Chow

    Hey where’s the video?