How one child, 10 volunteers and one fire extinguisher prevented a longhouse inferno

The sole fire extinguisher that saved a 48-door Rh Kampung Sebuyau Ensengei Iban from total disaster.

by Nancy Nais

KUCHING, June 4: While everyone else in Rh Kampung Sebuyau Ensengei Iban in Sebuyau was celebrating Gawai Dayak on the night of June 1, a six-year-old child spotted the glow of bedroom fire in the longhouse.

The child’s initial reaction started a chain of reactions which saved at least 350 residents from the 48 ‘pintu’ (door) longhouse from being rendered homeless.

At the same time, a group of 10 volunteer firefighters (PBS) from the Sg Buluh team were alerted to the 9.53pm incident.

With just one fire extinguisher (APA), they managed to prevent the fire from spreading and douse the flames under five minutes.

The aftermath of the fire that started from one of the bedrooms in Rh Kampung Sebuyau Ensengei Iban.

The nearest fire station, located at Asajaya town is 40.5km away. It will take firefighters about 44 minutes to arrive, if their fire engine travels at an average speed of 44km/h.

The cause of fire is under investigation.

What is clear is that had it not been for the alertness and preparedness of the volunteer firefighters, a tragedy could have occured. Their concerted efforts saved an estimated overall RM3.8 million in property and assets (about RM80,000 per door).

Volunteer firefighters especially those staying in villages and longhouses in Sarawak are seen as vital first responders when it comes to emergencies such as fire.

When it comes to fire, longhouses are especially vunerable due to the fact that it involves many ‘pintu’ (doors) housing families ranging from at least eight to 40.

Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) Sarawak director Khirudin Drahman said all longhouse residents no matter those located nearer to towns or far flung deep in the interiors must be equipped with basic firefighting skills and equipment.

“The fact that many longhouses are not accessible by road and built near rivers means the only mode of transportation for firefighters to reach there is by using boats, but that will take a longer response time.

“By the time our firefighters arrive, it is too late. Even if longhouses are accessible by road, most of them are located very far away from the nearest fire station,” he pointed out.

Hence, villagers must know how to act while waiting for assistance and this is why Sarawak needs more volunteer firefighters.

“Apart from training villagers on basic fire fighting skills, the department has been continuously implementing educational programes particularly on fire safety and awareness to avoid misfortunes.

“If anything does happen, this is where volunteer firefighters come in because they are responsive towards a disaster,” Khirudin said.

Khirudin (third left) presents a letter of appreciation, fire extinguishers and basic fire fighting equipment to Sg Buluh PBS, Kampung Sg Buluh and Kpg Sebuyau Ensengai Iban village chiefs, witnessed by Bomba Sarawak assistant director fire and safety Mohd Fauzi Mohamat Kifl (left), Sarawak Bomba deputy director Zainal Madasin (second left) and Bomba Sarawak assistant operations director Tiong Ling Hii (right).

Praising the Sg Buluh PBS team for their success in dousing the longhouse fire, Khirudin said this is just one of many examples proving that fire preparedness through PBS within the local community works.

Thanking PBS for helping the department in combating fires, he called on them to continue leading during emergencies, coordinating rescues and firefighting operations before the arrival of Bomba.

Earlier today, Khirudin presented a letter of appreciation to Sg Buluh PBS, Kpg Sg Buluh and Kpg Sebuyau Ensengai Iban village chiefs.

The department also gave five units of APA to Kpg Sebuyau Ensengai Iban, while Sg Buluh PBS received basic fire fighting equipment for their use. — DayakDaily