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China protects ancient towns against fire

Chinese cultural relics protection authorities will beef up the efforts to prevent fire in the country's cultural treasure-rich ancient towns.
 
The authorities are planning fire control in many of China's ancient cities and villages, according to Li Xiaojie, head of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH), on Monday.
 
Fire control will also be improved in 100 ancient cities, towns, villages or building complexes this year, he added.
 
Li made the remarks at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office in response to a question about recent fires in several of China's ancient sites.
 
Last month, Dukezong in Shangri-la County of southwest China's Yunnan Province, known for well-preserved Tibetan homes, lost nearly 300 houses, two-thirds of the entire town, in the worst fire in its 1,300-year history.
 
It was later found that the fire was caused by an electric heater.
 
Also in January, a blaze broke out in Baojing Dong Village, southwest China's Guizhou Province, destroying more than 100 houses.
 
The official admitted that fires have become a primary threat to cultural heritage, a fact that has put the authority "under huge pressure".
 
Li said his administration is basically in charge of the protection of cultural relics sites and items, "however, when fires breaks out in an ancient village, cultural sites are in danger."
 
Li said the authority will increase its commitment to fire risk control, planning and prevention.
 
A program to prevent electrical fires piloted in the city of Chengde in north China's Hebei Province last year, will be expanded to the entire province, as well as the regions of Anhui, Sichuan and Yunnan in this year, according to the official.
 
He said SACH will also work with the police and pledged better protection for culture, heritage and the environment during urbanization.
 
SACH has worked with the Ministry of Finance and singled out six ancient villages for a comprehensive trial. The project will be launched this year, he said.
 
Li said protection and development should be focused on unique historical and cultural value, to avoid cookie-cutter development patterns in such places.