After 8-day fight, Sarawak Bomba hopes to completely extinguish peat fire in Lawas by tomorrow

Seated from third left: Fauzi, Khirudin, Dr Sim and Tiong with other Bomba personnel photographed during the Chinese New Year celebration held at Sarawak Bomba headquarters in Kuching on Feb 27, 2024.

By Shikin Louis

KUCHING, Feb 27: After eight days of firefighting, Sarawak Fire and Bomba Department (Bomba) hopes to completely extinguish the 70-hectare peat fire incident in Kampung Banting, Jalan Kuala Lawas in Lawas by tomorrow.

Sarawak Bomba director Datuk Khirudin Drahman@Hussaini said as of 8am today, the Bomba Zone 7 team still has to extinguish the peat fire on the remaining 10 hectares of land since the incident first occurred on Feb 20.

Datuk Khirudin Drahman@Hussaini

For the last three days ago, he said the firefighters had to switch up their game and relied on helicopter to conduct aerial water bombing on some interior areas due to the difficulty of deploying heavy machineries to the said areas.

“We also paid attention to the accessible areas where we used water check dams to control water tables in peatlands, several units of excavators to dig up the peatland and conduct total flooding to douse the fire.

“I hope that by this evening or tomorrow, we would be able to completely extinguish the peat fire in Lawas,” he said during a Chinese New Year celebration held at Sarawak Bomba headquarters here today.

Dr Sim (centre) presents a certificate of appreciation to Tiong while Khirudin (left) looks on during the Chinese New Year celebration at Sarawak Bomba headquarters in Kuching on Feb 27, 2024.

Elaborating on the long hours of operation, Khirudin revealed that the peat fire is difficult to suppress as it is governed by smoldering combustion below the ground up to 10 feet deep.

Additionally, he said the firefighters had to halt the operation at night to prevent any incidences of personnel falling into the fire.

“We had all the firefighters in Limbang and Lawas to be involved in the firefighting operation assisted by the police, Civil Defence Force (APM) and People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA).

“Today, we have over 80 personnel on duty for the operation,” he said.

Khirudin further said although there are advocacy programmes implemented to create awareness on peat fires, members of the public tend to be careless and proceed with open burning on empty land for agricultural purposes.

“When the open burning gets out of control, this leads to the flames growing larger and the emission of smoke that affect the environment and the comfort of the local residents,” he added.

The Chinese New Year celebration event was officiated at by Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Dr Sim Kui Hian.

Also present were Sarawak Bomba deputy director Tiong Ling Hii and Fire Safety Division assistant director Mohamad Fauzi Mohamat Kifli. — DayakDaily