By Nancy Nais
KUCHING, Aug 21: Sarawak recorded 12 longhouse fires this year, not 38 as claimed by certain quarters, said Sarawak Fire and Rescue department (Bomba) director PKPjB Khirudin Drahman.
Khirudin was refuting a recent statement made by Kenyah Uma Baha Women’s Association Sibu chairwoman Umie Liau that 38 longhouse fire were recorded in Sarawak this year, stating the number was inaccurate.
“Certain quarters issuing wrong statistics can cause worries or panic among the community or leaders especially involving longhouse fire disaster,” Khirudin told at a press conference today.
On Aug 19, Umie claimed that statistics from January to May 2020 alone revealed 38 longhouses in the interior of Sarawak were destroyed by fire with losses estimated at RM2 million.
Her statement came after a 20-door longhouse Rh Chat Bilat in Nanga Bilat, Entabai was totally destroyed in the Aug 17 fire, leaving 142 residents homeless.
Khirudin pointed that 120 longhouse fire cases were recorded in Sarawak since 2015 to July 2020 this year, mostly from Sibu zone.
From the 120 cases received in the last five years, Khirudin said Sibu zone recorded 38 cases, followed by Sri Aman zone (26), Bintulu zone (23), Miri zone (22), Limbang zone (6) and Samarahan zone (5).
“Sarawak did not record 38 longhouse fire this year. Perhaps Umie misunderstood the statistics, number of years and district, when the actual numbers are 38 cases in Sibu zone in the last five years.
“I urge everyone to check with Bomba first when it comes to giving out statement or statistics with regards to fire cases,” he said.
Revealing more details on longhouse fires, Khirudin said three deaths and eight injuries were reported since 2015.
Sarawak recorded 17 cases in 2015, and the numbers steadily increased to 20 in 2016, followed by 26 in 2017.
However, the numbers began to decrease in 2018 (24), 2019 (21), and 12 cases this year.
“About 37 per cent of these fire occurred between 6am to 12noon. The main culprit to the cause of fire was due to electrical failure (54 cases), followed by gas equipment (29), burning fire (18), lighter (8), kerosene lamp (5), candle (3) and others (3).
“A total of 1,554 doors (59.1 percent) were destroyed, while firefighters and villagers managed to save 1,074 doors (40.9 percent),” he added.
The estimated loss were RM95.7 million while estimated property saved was RM67.8 million.
On the other hand, not all longhouse fires cases recorded total 100 percent loss.
There were cases where the fire was extinguished by residents in the early stages.
A total of 448 doors from 14 longhouses were successfully saved by alert villagers with 60 units of fire extinguisher since 2015.
They are Rh Juliana Isa, Bakong, Miri in 2015 ; Rh Daniel Buncung Ulu, Sri Aman in 2016; Rn Enjop Sg Babi Marudi, Rh Ugap Laja Nanga Serau Julau and Rh Juing Kuala Mendalam Meramit in 2018; Rh Micheal Ding Ulu Sebauh, Rh Aji Bakong Miri in 2018; Rh Long Ikang Baram, Rh Malong Melaban Sare Sarikei and Rh Andreas Jalan Kemiding Kanowit in 2019; and Rh Bundan Metong Roban Saratok, Rh Besi Jalan Durin Kanowit, Rh Katol Kerangan Kerian Saratok, Rh Kpg Ensengei Sebuyau in 2020.
“So this demonstrates the importance of educating and establishing community firefighters who are capable of controlling the early stages of fire. We will need to work harder in changing in the community’s mindset on the importance of fire safety. It is crucial to continue pressing and reminding them that fire incident or tragedy never choose their victim,” he added.
Khirudin pointed that the department has taken and still taking various proactive measures including strengthening the 5E concept (Education, Engineering, Emergency Response Team, Enforcement and Economic Incentive) through a total fire cover approach to prevent and reduce longhouse fires in Sarawak.
“We are putting a lot of initiative to introduce and educate the communities on fire awareness, prevention and safety, moving aggressively from one place to another, mostly in the rural communities, with their Fire Safety Awareness and Prevention Programmes including Summer Camps, and setting up Bomba Komuniti and Community Emergency response Team (CERT),” he said.
He stressed that the department also constantly reminded the communities on ‘precaution, prevention and protection’ (3P) approach as this could help to prevent more serious cases involving fire, and the 3L elements (lupa, lalai leka), hoping to reduce the number of cases to zero incidents in the future.—DayakDaily