TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A photographer flaunting photos of himself breathing fire atop Taichung’s Yuanzui Shan on Instagram has triggered a backlash in a Facebook hikers’ group, and now faces a fine between NT$120,000 (US$ 4,262.95) and NT$300,000, according to the Forestry Bureau.
A screenshot of the Instagram post was reposted to the Facebook group “Complaints about Hiking Related Things” (靠北登山大小事) by a netizen going by the name Lin Hu Tsong (藺壺蔥) on Tuesday (Oct. 12), who asked fellow group members what to do about such people. “This is wrong and must not be encouraged,” Lin said.
The post immediately drew attention, and mountaineers accused the “attention-seeking” photographer of igniting a fire on mountains, which according to the Forestry Act is prohibited in forest areas and forest preservation areas. Commentators quickly reported the photographer to authorities.
Although some people speculated that the photos may be photoshopped, Lin responded with more screenshots of the photographer’s Instagram post, under which the photographer confirmed that they were authentic photos.
The photographer boasts about breathing fire on a mountain peak. (Facebook, Iris Hsu screenshot)
“Don’t do bad things, people. Immediately after breathing fire, we ran into two cops,” the photographer wrote in his post, including two laughing tears emojis. “Thankfully the two policemen were very nice, they just thought we were cool,” he added with two more emojis with sunglasses.
After the issue blew up, the photographer posted a notice to apologize and said that he and a friend took the fire-breathing photos to commemorate their hike. He assured netizens that the fuel he used was high-flash-point, low volatility kerosene, and cleaned the area afterward.
However, he closed his Instagram account shortly after issuing the statement. The apology was reposted to the Facebook group by a user named Huang Tzu-yue (黃子岳).
While some hikers in the group debated how potent the photographer’s fuel and fire actually were, and whether they were capable of actually damaging the environment, most people were angry at the irresponsibility and disrespect demonstrated by such behavior. “Let me tell you… many things happen in mountains because people ‘think’ it is ‘unlikely’ or ‘probably won’t,’ then they happen…” a user named Che Han-de (陳翰德) said.
One of the Instagram photos shows fire burning on the mountain. (Facebook, Chen Han-de screenshot)
They also questioned the photographer’s claim that the dark mark on the mountain really was just stone turning a deeper shade due to wetness, as one of the photos in the photographer’s post showed the ground burning as well.
Wu Chen-chun (吳貞純), secretary of the Forestry Bureau’s Donshi Office, told UDN that people who ignite a fire in forests may be subject to fines between NT$120,000 and NT$300,000, and those who burn down forests belonging to others face up to two years in prison, short term jailing, or fines up to NT$300,000.
Wu said the Seventh Special Police Corps has taken over the case and will conduct investigations.
“Now he really is a hot topic!” Chang Yu-fu (張有富) commented on Facebook.