A village in Guizhou province famous for its wooden houses has been under the protection of eight volunteer female firefighters since March, bringing a softer touch to a dangerous job and greater care to everyday prevention.
Residents said their village has never been as safe or as tidy.
More than 90 percent of the houses at Mushan village in Gaoniang town, Tianzhu county, are made of wood. The village, which is home to 470 families and 1,700 inhabitants, is classified as a "provincial-level village with ethnic characteristics" partly because of this.
To keeps lives and property safe, the village committee formed a voluntary fire brigade in March.
The all-woman brigade now has eight members, aged between 30 and 53.
"Most of our men are working away from home in cities, so it's women who are responsible for keeping our village safe," said Liu Qiuling, the team leader and also village Party secretary.
They conduct regular drills in fire suits, protective helmets and boots to sharpen their skills and protect themselves.
"You need to pull on the hose with greater force," Liu told her teammates in a loud voice, while showing them how to use firefighting equipment during a weekly drill last month.
Chen Niao, the squad's youngest member, joined without hesitation, even though her husband is working in a city and she has to take care of her 1-year-old child.
During weekly drills, Chen and her teammates practice putting out fires again and again to improve their ability to respond to fires as quickly as possible.
In addition, she walks around the village every day to check for fire hazards and see whether hay and firewood are properly stacked, and electric wiring is secure.
If she finds anything out of place, owners are immediately alerted and required to address the problem.
For example, Liu Taicheng, who runs a small store selling daily supplies, redid the electric wiring in his store two days after the firefighters told him that it was worn out and needed to be insulated.
"They are working for the sake of the whole village. We should support them and deal with any hazards," Liu said, adding that his wife is also a member of the brigade.
"We need them to keep our village safe because there are so many wooden houses here."
Chen said: "As a Party member, it's my duty to volunteer, not only to serve the villagers, but to keep my family and me safe, too. It is worth doing, even though there's no salary."
At night, the squad joins village officers and forest rangers to teach fire prevention.
In March, members of the team found firewood piled 2 meters from a house, which posed a serious fire hazard.
They immediately told a villager to move the wood. "I became aware of the threat of a fire breaking out after they told me, so I moved the wood 30 meters away from my house," said Liu Yunqi, the villager in question.
After months of effort, fire hazards have been eliminated and the village has changed greatly. It looks tidy and clean, with no disorderly piles of firewood lying around.
Nearly every household has made sure their electric wiring is properly insulated, a pond with water for fighting fires has been dug in the village, and every family has been given a fire extinguisher.
Liu said that she and her teammates will continue to work on making the brigade better to raise village safety.