January 23, 2024
SEOUL – A 23-year-old South Korean man alerted his neighbors in an apartment fire in Seoul last week, helping all 95 residents to escape to safety, local media reported Monday.
On Thursday a fire broke out on the 14th floor of an apartment building in Banghwa-dong of Gangseo-gu, western Seoul, at 6:30 a.m., with no casualties except four minor cases of smoke inhalation. A report from local daily Dong-A Ilbo revealed that this was thanks to heroic efforts by a resident named Woo Il-yeong.
According to the report, the sixth-floor resident became aware of the fire while preparing for work, and went up to the 14th floor to find that smoke had filled the halls. After coming back downstairs to get a wet cloth, he went back up to find if anyone needed help.
Woo found an elderly person wondering around in the smoke on the 14th floor and led the person downstairs. He then ran up and down the stairs for 30 minutes to knocking on the doors and urge other residents to evacuate the building, before firefighters arrived on the scene.
After all 95 occupants had escaped to safety, he realized that he had lost his slippers.
“I hesitated for about 10 minutes after seeing the smoke, but I thought of my father’s last words and found the courage,” he was quoted as saying, as his father had told him to help others before he passed away three years ago. It was reported that the majority of the residents of the building were senior citizens or physically challenged.
Officials found that the fire started when a resident on the 14th floor was lighting a cigarette. It was also found that the building’s fire-resistant doors meant to prevent the spread of fire had been left open, allowing the blaze to spread across the entire floor within a short period.
Another fire at an apartment complex in nearby Gayang-dong, Gangseo-gu, on Jan. 12 also left minimal damages, as the person who reported the fire also notified his neighbors. In the Gayang-dong case, the resident of the unit that caught fire had closed the front door to prevent smoke from spreading.
Fire authorities recommend shutting doors to contain smoke and flames inside to reduce damage and the speed of the fi