An Account of the Chinese Political Trouble from the Perspective of a Fire Chief—Snipers Hamper Fire Protection

ON Sunday, March 20, matters became so tense in China with the routing of the Northern troops who had taken up positions about twenty miles from Shanghai that precautionary mobilization was ordered for the police and the fire department within the International Settlement limits.

At the time when general mobilization was ordered for the volunteers, rifle and machine gun fire became general in Chapei, the large Chinese settlement adjoining the International Settlement—a district with a population of 350,000 people. Cantonese soldiers in plain clothes, and about 4.S00 members of the labor union who had been hiding within the city, attacked the police and Shantung soldiers by firing from windows and roofs of the houses.

Fire involved one of the police stations and this spread to forty houses. The Chinese fire department could not respond because of the street fighting, and the fire burned itself out by six o’clock in the evening. Northern troops of several thousand soldiers and one hundred White Russians manned an armored train which had been brought from the north at the North Railway station, and they made a stand about one hundred feet from the northern edge of the Settlement.

They started to shell with six pounders the various houses, where snipers were observed. A Cantonese club took fire then the fire station of No. 3 Division of the Chapei fire department, and then thirty houses around caught on fire. At 10:15 p. m., another fire broke out about one-quarter mile from the other one, and in addition two more fires were reported by men in the w’atch towers in different parts of the Chinese settlement. At 9 a. m., there were four distinct fires in different sections of Chapei, and all burned themselves out before they reached closer than one-quarter mile of the International Settlement.

Remains of a Leland Pump of the 3rd Division, and the Chapei Fire Station Destroyed by Fire.Ruins of Some of the Many Houses Razed by the Fires in the District

When the fire neared the Settlement, the Settlement brigade turned out and worked under the protection of the Japanese sailors, although the sniping continued; luckily none of the firemen was hit.

In all about 2.500 houses in Chapei were destroyed, and many bodies were found. It will never be known whether they died from the military fire or by the flames. In normal times the Chapei department consisted of 120 men divided into four divisions. One German make pump and an American make tender was assigned to the first division. The second division had a French make pump and an American tender: the third division had an Hnglish make pump and an American tender while the fourth division had a French make pump.

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