I join the battle as a city of heroes rises to the occasion in force
China Daily

Volunteers carry supplies up Jinyun Mountain on Thursday to help quell the fire in the Beibei district of Chongqing. LI YE/FOR CHINA DAILY

I didn't sleep well for several days, worrying about the wildfires in several parts of Chongqing, my hometown.

The southwestern municipality has been scorched by its worst heat wave since 1961, when such statistics were first recorded nationwide. The lingering heat and drought caused a series of wildfires in this "city of mountains".

Like most people from Chongqing, I felt I must do something to help stop the fires spreading, especially after I smelt heavy smoke in my apartment and saw tiny charred embers on my balconies on the evening of Aug 21.

The smoke and embers were believed to be from a wildfire in nearby Banan district, which broke out in the afternoon that day. That night, a large fire started in the mountains in Beibei district, 40 kilometers from my home.

The raging fire was getting very close. Although forest firefighting forces from three provinces arrived to help, the local government needed more assistance from the public, and it began to call for volunteers and disaster relief materials for different fire scenes around the city.

I estimated that thousands of people from all walks of life quickly responded to the call.

Many delivered all kinds of materials needed for fire rescue work, such as bottled water, food, fire extinguishers, helmets, lights, chain saws and medical supplies. They took them to collection points, without giving their names.

Hundreds of people with related skills and experience signed up as volunteers.

Facing challenging weather and mountainous terrain, young men felled trees and helped put the fires out. Women organized supplies, while motorcyclists transported firefighters and materials on newly formed unpaved mountain paths that were used as fire barriers.

I asked myself what I could do to help. I am a middle-aged woman with average physical strength. I cannot ride a motorcycle, and do not have any medical skills.

I decided to do everything I could for the hard-working volunteers, which included taking them cold fruit tea.

When I arrived at an assembly point at the foot of Jinyun Mountain in Beibei at noon on Thursday, the road was bustling with vans, motorcycles and rescue organizers shouting through loudspeakers. Hundreds of volunteers wearing yellow vests and helmets, with towels soaked in cold water on their necks, were waiting for orders.

I met one of my friends, who teaches at Southwest University near Jinyun Mountain. Young, fit and 1.9 meters tall, he knows how to use a chain saw, and he had been working day and night to cut down trees to make fire barriers.

He was told to go home to take a rest the next morning, but he returned to the assembly point in the afternoon after having a brief birthday lunch with his wife.

"I cannot sit at home and watch the fire approaching our man-made barrier," he told me. "My wife totally understands me."

That night, watching the wildfire approach the barrier, the last line of defense, I knew we faced a desperate battle to quell the flames.

An organizer asked for volunteers to carry materials up the mountain.

"I'm in," my friend shouted, raising his right arm before joining the volunteer team. I choked up, as he was so determined to heroically defend our home.

Chongqing, a city with more than 3,000 years of history, has no shortage of heroes.

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Diaoyucheng-which translates in Chinese as "fishing city"-a town of about 10,000 people in Chongqing, made history by holding out against the invading Mongol army for 36 years.

During the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), the Japanese army carried out bombing attacks on Chongqing, the wartime capital of the Kuomintang government, from February 1938 to December 1944.

However, the bombings failed to destroy the spirit of Chongqing people. A well-known slogan painted on walls around the city proclaimed, "Get stronger with every bombing."

With such solidarity, sacrifices and bravery, I strongly believe that Chinese people can overcome any difficulties to make our country better and stronger.