Eliminate Fire Risks via Joint Efforts,
Bring about a Brand New Image for
Hawker Stalls
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Hong Kong Fire Services Department

Exemplary Services@Gov
2015
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Hawker stalls have a long history in Hong Kong, embodying a special feature of the local community, and some of them have become tourist attractions. However, the overcrowded stalls and the narrow aisles pose a fire threat to the community. After the fire broke out at the Fa Yuen Street hawker area in 2011, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Fire Services Department (FSD) quickly responded and took joint actions, inspecting all the hawker areas in Hong Kong. In addition to strengthening management measures, they also gathered the latest and most accurate data so as to formulate a comprehensive strategy to improve fire safety in hawker areas. Regarding medium-term and long-term measures, the Government launched a “Hawker Assistance Scheme” in 2013, providing subsidies to about 4,300 hawkers in 43 fixed-pitch hawker areas for stall relocation and reconstruction, and offering ex-gratia payment to hawkers who opt for voluntary surrender of their hawker licences to the Government to release vacant pitches to relocate other stalls.

Join hands for win-win results

The large number of stalls involved, the different environmental constraints in different districts, and the different interests or considerations for the hawkers and nearby residents, are reasons why the improvement work is so difficult. The FEHD and the FSD identified some 500 stalls which need to be accorded priority because these stalls are located directly in front of staircase discharge points of buildings or obstructing the access and operation of fire appliances, thus posing higher fire risks. The two departments hosted almost 100 joint meetings and field inspections, actively engaged Legislative Council Members, District Council Members, representatives from hawker associations and hawkers, and acted flexibly in a people-oriented spirit with a view to meeting hawkers’ needs without compromising fire safety. Except for hawker areas with higher risk, the departments adopted the approach of “resolving the simple cases before the difficult ones” by prioritising the handling of hawker areas with relatively more vacant pitches, in order to accumulate experience, generate quick results and gain more support.

Careful plan brings in a fresh new look

During the relocation process, with support from all hawkers in the hawker areas, the departments re-planned the stall layouts, thus improving the business environment. In addition to complying with basic specifications, reconstructed stalls have to use fire-resistant materials. Encouraged by the departments, the hawkers added innovative elements to their new stalls to increase their appeal and improve their functionality.

Within the first 1.5 years of the 5-year Hawker Assistance Scheme, the departments and all owners whose hawker stalls pose a relatively high risk have reached an agreement on relocation arrangements. Over 85% of the pitches have already been vacated. Over 45% of the hawkers have applied for financial assistance for relocation and reconstruction of stalls or for surrender of their hawker licences. The departments will continue to communicate with stakeholders and assist the remaining hawkers to reconstruct their stalls, enabling street trading and fire safety to go hand in hand.

The FEHD and the FSD hosted joint meetings to communicate with different stakeholders.
The FEHD and the FSD hosted joint meetings to communicate with different stakeholders.
Overcrowded stalls and narrow aisles in old hawker areas posed a fire threat to the local community.
Overcrowded stalls and narrow aisles in old hawker areas posed a fire threat to the local community.
During reconstruction of stalls, hawkers added innovative elements to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the new stalls.
During reconstruction of stalls, hawkers added innovative elements to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the new stalls.