Combating forest fires at both ground zero and air attack

A helicopter bombing water to curb forest fires.

By Wilfred Pilo

SRI AMAN, Sept 21: Firefighters, the military and other agencies have been battling forest fires at several hotspots across the state at ground zero and deploying aerial attack.

It is hoped that using both approaches simultaneously would help to distinguish forest and peat fires, as well as controlling the haze problem in Sarawak, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas.

“It is still difficult to extinguish peat fire when it started to spread and that is the reason the authorities are taking two approaches to tackle the problem.

“One of the approaches is assault from the ground, as well as by air,” he told reporters after a briefing about the hotspots and haze here.

State Fire and Rescue (Bomba) acting deputy director Tiong Ling Hii gave the briefing at the site of the forest fire.

“On the briefing, Bomba had told us how they have structured their strategy to control the fire from spreading.

“The most important way is to distinguish fire by water but due to shortage (manpower), we used one helicopter that will do water bombing. There is a bombardier plane that also will assist to distinguish the fire from spreading,” Uggah said.

Uggah (green shirt) inspecting the hot spot area at the vicinity of Kampung STC, Sri Aman.

He urged the local authorities in Sri Aman to discuss with Bomba to ensure that in the future, every department would know what steps to take on hot spots during the dry spell.

Uggah expressed content Douglas there was rain in Sri Aman yesterday evening, which saw the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings dropped from 420 to 125.

The minister also touched on water shortage issue facing Sri Aman, especially Engkilili, but assured that the Rural Water Supply Department (JBALB) is doing its best to supply water to the affected communities.

Uggah (right) speaking to JBALB representatives about water shortage in Sri Aman.

Tiong meanwhile, said the heavy rain in Sri Aman did not help much to control the ongoing forest and peat fires at Kampung STC.

“The rain could only stop ‘surface burning’ while fires underneath, the remaining 82 acres of peat soil, are still active,” he explained.

The department also recorded 38 new cases of forest, peat and bush fires yesterday.

Tiong said to date, they have received 400 cases since Sept 1, involving some 1,151 acres of land.

This includes the ongoing forest and bush fires in Sri Aman, which they’ve been trying to battle for days at Kampung STC, Kelauh (267 acres), Kejatau (200 acres) and Jalan Tisak (66 acres).

Some 40 extra firefighters from other fire stations and zones in the state were deployed to assist their comrades in Sri Aman, with the help of other agencies from the Civil Defence Force, Sri Aman Resident’s Office, Works Department, as well as Drainage and Irrigation (DID). — DayakDaily