Thursday, March 19, 2015

[Special Edition] People, Places, Penang - Building Your Own Fire Station

Metal hoardings encircling the land to the proposed fire station
Gotong Royong - Community Spirit, and this spirit lives on in the Chinese community over at the Clan Jetties of Georgetown, Penang. A fund-raising committee has been set up to take up the responsibility of getting donations so that a fire station could be built. This fire brigade would be run by volunteers.

Mini fire truck parked at the side of the Weld Quay

When I saw this mounted banner, I started to question whether the fire service provided by the government was in such poor state that the community had to chip in. What's more, the Central Fire Station was less than 1km away from these jetties. So in times of need, I'm pretty sure the paid fire fighters would be able to get to the place on time.

The fire trucks were open to the elements and some parts of the vehicle, especially the pumps, have started to rust.

A Visit to the Central Fire Station

Vehicles on display
I had a peek at the vehicles within the fire station. Though they may not be your top-of-the-class fire fighting vehicles, they were still adequately equipped to put out the fire. So it was puzzling for me. Why would the community still want to build a self-funded fire station?

The Answer is...

On my last day in Penang, I'd still not receive a good explanation to this situation. But Mr Nanda, my taxi driver who was driving me to the airport, gave me his explanation. It has nothing to do with the paid fire service being inefficient, but the community had just wanted to chip in to ensure that the wooden huts built over the waters were safe.

Gotong royong spirit in Singapore

The gotong royong spirit was for all to see in Singapore. There were already philanthropists such as Tan Tock Seng who helped to build one of Singapore's pioneer hospital (1) Gotong Royong was still evident in the 1970s. During those days, the Singapore military personnel volunteered their time and energy to repair roads and clean up drains. (1) (2)  As the government now takes care of all the cleaning and maintenance, the gotong royong movement in Singapore has also moved into a more modern affair where the community is reaching out to the poor, needy and the at-risk youth by giving their time and money.

Still, I think it will be cool to see a gotong royong project come to fruition. So what can we do or build in Singapore? How can we add on to the gotong royong spirit?


1. Tan Tock Seng's Legacy Remembered. February 23, 2001. The Straits Times. P30.

2. N-Servicemen in 'gotong royong' project. March 11, 1971. The Straits Times. P7.

2. Desilting a river the gotong royong way. October 5, 1971. The Straits Times. P2.

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