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By Nancy Nais
MIRI, March 13: The Fire and Rescue Department’s (Bomba) air wing is appealing to the Sarawak state government to consider their request for a permanent site and base in the state.
Bomba Subang Air Unit Senior Superintendent 1 Roslan Aziz said the department has been trying for about five years but has yet to get approval.
The one and only unit in East Malaysia, which serves Sarawak, Labuan and Sabah is currently based in Miri, in a rented hangar at Miri airport.
“We’ve applied several times for a permanent site in East Malaysia. Based on our past operations records and statistics, we’ve found that Miri is the most strategic location because it is in the middle of the East Malaysian states. If we can get a permanent base in Miri, we will be able to serve Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan much better because flight and emergency response time will be much more efficient,” Roslan said.
Speaking to reporters after the unit’s MEDEVAC Camp 4 Mulu appreciation ceremony, Roslan said although the department recommendeds Miri as the permanent base, they will leave it to the state government to decide.
The unit’s East Malaysian base was approved by the federal government in 2013, after the tragic overloaded express boat crash in Belaga.
“The cabinet agreed to send two helicopters from our air wing base in Subang to Sarawak. In the beginning, they were placed at Kota Samarahan near Kuching and then moved to Lopeng fire station in Miri before getting a contract to rent a hangar here in Miri airport,” he said.
Roslan is also requesting the federal government to consider creating more vacancies for the unit’s base in Miri.
Currently, the unit in Miri has 16 permanent officers comprising Sarawakians and Sabahans.
There are also additional 12 officers who are West Malaysians by detachment.
“The additional staff who are on detachment will come here for two weeks and then they go back to West Malaysia. It means, once every two weeks, there will be a change of crew. If the government can create additional posts for the unit in Miri, which can be filled by East Malaysians, it can also help the department to reduce cost,” he explained, adding that this should be given serious attention and priority.
Roslan also emphasised that if the unit is given a permanent base and extra manpower, they can also increase the number of aircraft in Sarawak.
There are two Mi-171 helicopters in Miri to serve the whole East Malaysia and he hopes that the government will consider an additional one or two more.
“However, our limitation to have more personnel and aircraft is also due to the size of our air base; hence, we hope that the government will consider a permanent and bigger base for us,” Roslan said. — DayakDaily