2022-09-02 18:24


Foreign volunteer braving bushfire to support rescue went viral


Chongqing Municipality has waged battle against a raft of spreading fires. In record-breaking heat, forest fires broke out in many places in late August, and the high mountainous terrain makes it particularly challenging to put out the fires.

Local firefighters, residents, and volunteers were mobilized promptly. Among them, Francis Stonier soon attracted attention for his foreign face.

Francis Stonier, a 42-year-old American teacher at Southwest University in Beibei District, won applause from Chinese netizens after his video of assembling and carrying chainsaws to support local fire rescue campaign went viral online.

The university was near the mountains which were raged by bushfires. "We were certainly aware of the forest fires and even we had smoke coming into our apartment one evening," Francis, who lives on campus, recalled.

Francis's wife saw that local community was calling for volunteers who know how to use chainsaw, he immediately signed up to support the firefighting campaign in the district.

According to Tan Chao, a member of the Chongqing Blue Sky Rescue Team, it was difficult to snuff out such a large scale of forest fire solely by water. Instead, what mattered the most was to create fire barriers to curb the spread of flames.

Fire rescue chainsaws, which can cut down trees quickly to make firebreaks, were in urgent need at that time. As most volunteers were unfamiliar with the assembling and use of such chainsaws, Francis shared his logging expertise with the others.

Francis came to the fire rescue frontline with some other colleagues on Aug. 23, when the maximum daytime temperature hit 43 degrees in the district. Francis and his team members spared no effort and rushed to help assemble about 50 chainsaws that day, greatly alleviating the tool shortage in firefighting.

For safety reasons, rescue staff advised Francis and his translator to return to the foot of the mountain instead of using the chainsaws themselves.


"Though I felt pity in my heart, it's imperative to follow the overall arrangement," said Francis, adding that he felt so proud when seeing the chainsaws assembled by his team were carried by firefighters to combat the wildfires.

Francis's participation in the battle against forest fires was hailed by local residents, some of whom recorded video footage of his move and posted them on social media platforms.

The heart-warming videos soon garnered over 1 million "likes." One user of Douyin app, commented under one of Francis's clips, saying that "The heroic move is beyond frontiers. Pay respect to all people that braved the wildfire."

Caused by continuous heatwaves, the forest fires in Chongqing have been brought under control recently. 

Francis first visited China for academic purposes for several months in 2008. The American teacher soon fell in love with a Chinese woman, who is now his wife.

Since then, Francis has been dedicated to all kinds of volunteer work in China. He has donated money and offered free classes to children in rural areas, organized public training courses for many teachers in Chongqing, and attended multiple government volunteer activities.



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