Is it true that you have to pay them first before they will put out the fire for you? If so, how much?
There are lots of rumors on firefighting practices in Vietnam and whether or not firefighting is under the ‘money-first-service-later’ procedure that is an all too common practice here.
I’ve actually never thought of it myself or what I would need to do should I ever encounter a fire. So, upon some desk research and talking to people who went through actual fires, here is what should be expected.
First, dial 114 to report the fire. It could take the fire brigade up to half an hour to arrive, depending on the traffic and distance. After the fire is put out, the police from your district will investigate what caused the fire. Regardless of whether the fire was accidental or intentional, a fine will be imposed on the culprit based on the severity of the fire. So even if you accidentally leave your iron unattended and start a fire, and you are the one who suffered the physical loss and mental trauma, you will still be fined. The post-fire investigation is done by the district police office, not the firefighters.
All the people I asked, “Do you need to pay first before the firefighters will put out the fire?” answered unanimously, “No.” Residents and companies do not have to pay any fee when they report a fire hazard with 114 and/or for any firefighting services. However, I followed a discussion on one forum and there were quite a few comments about “prevention.” They say neighboring houses to the one on fire tend to tip the firefighters to help take precautionary actions so as to prevent the fire from spreading to their house. How true this claim is, I am not sure and I cannot verify it. It may be just the very few people who do so and it is not a common practice. But if you do think of doing this if your neighbor’s house happens to catch on fire, feel free to do so as I am sure the firefighters will accept the tip and work extra hard to prevent your house from suffering the same fate.
As an unwritten rule, all of the people I talked to, and even people on the forums, mention that you should tip the firefighters after their work is done. How much to tip depends on how big your pocket is. The corporate HSE manager who I sought information from in order to bust this myth
emphasized greatly the post-fire tipping ‘courtesy’ as part of a wider culture of rewarding good work.
So to sum up, you do not have to pay the firefighters upfront for them to put out a fire for you. But it is advisable to tip them afterwards. And precautions go a long way so if you happen to be in the proverbial hot seat, do think of doing what the locals greatly believe in – “money upfront is wise money.”