A firefighter sacrifices his life, 14 years after being rescued during an earthquake

Two firefighters who died battling a mountain fire in Xintian county, Henan province, were recently honored posthumously as martyrs.

One of the firefighters, Cai Maoqiang, was from the Sichuan Province Forest Fire Department. He suffered severe burns while providing cover for comrades-in-arms to evacuate from a fire on October 21 and later died despite rescue efforts.

Cai Maoqiang and Xiao Jianqiang. [Photo/CCTV]

Cai was born in 1999 in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province. After a devastating magnitude 8 earthquake rocked Wenchuan in 2008, Cai and his family found themselves trapped under rubble after their home collapsed. They were rescued from the rubble by armed soldiers from the political forces.

In 2019, Cai was registered as a member of the national fire and rescue service. Since then, he had participated in 14 firefighting missions and six other rescue missions.

Before sacrificing his life on the last firefighting mission, Cai and his fiancee had planned to get married this year. To honor Cai’s heroism, he was also posthumously recognized as a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

Cai Maoqiang (L) and his fellow firefighters. [Photo from Sina Weibo]

Another firefighter who received the title of martyr is Xiao Jianqiang, 47, from Huaihua, Hunan province. He is survived by a daughter and a wife.

On October 25, many residents lined the streets of Xintian to see the two heroes pass the hearse carrying their coffins.

After the fire broke out in Xintian on Oct. 17, more than 4,000 people, including more than 800 firefighters from neighboring Sichuan Province, joined in the fight against the blaze.

Residents queue in the street to see the two firefighters on October 25. [Photo from Sina Weibo]