“According to the National Fire Agency’s own estimate, a total of 24,652 firefighters are needed across the country, but the entire firefighting force has only 13,941 people, meaning that there’s about a 50 percent shortage in manpower,” Yang said.
Yang said that in Taipei, firefighters may have one day off after one day of work, but in most other cities and counties, firefighters need to work two days to get one day off, and often they are asked to give up their day off because of manpower shortages.
“The horrible thing is that sometimes it is considered a ‘non-working day’ if we stay in the fire station for the whole day without any assignment. Our supervisor may say that it doesn’t count as a working day because we stayed in the station and slept,” Yang said. “Well, if I wanted to sleep, I would sleep at home. I was in the fire station because I was asked to work.”
A firefighter from Hsinchu County surnamed Wu (吳) said that once he was asked to work 14 days straight.
“Most firefighters suffer from stomach problems because of the irregular work hours and the stress,” Wu said. “It would not be as much of a burden if we only had to focus on firefighting and disaster rescues, but people often call the fire station for anything that they want help with, adding a lot of work for us.”
For example, Wu said that he was once dispatched to help people pick up a fallen flowerpot in front of a house, while Yang said that a man in Taipei once said that there was a ghost in his house and asked him to catch the ghost for him.
The demonstration ended after demonstrators placed green and blue slippers on barbed-wire police barricades to symbolize that they are fed up with both the green and the blue political camps.