Longhouse dwellers must realise that ‘fire is a bad master’ — Bomba chief

The longhouse fire at Rumah Nanga Makut, Katibas in Song, on Sept 25, 2018.

Editor’s note: Story updated with details of fire.

KUCHING, Sept 25: Longhouse dwellers must develop the habit of taking extra care whenever they are in the kitchen because the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) will often be unable to reach them in time in the event of a fire due to various uncontrollable factors.

State Bomba deputy director (Operations) Tiong Ling Hii told DayakDaily that the majority of longhouse fires were due to the human factor in the kitchen.

“Most of these fires came from kitchen activities, such as longhouse folks leaving their stove unattended or totally forgetting about it. Another reason is electrical equipment failure,” he said.

On the average, a longhouse has 10-15 ‘pintu’ (doors). Some have up to 25 or 30 doors. But the problem is that most of these longhouses are located deep in the interior and are made of wood.

“So when a fire breaks out, it shows no mercy, causing one whole community to lose everything,” he pointed out.

Tiong added that in many rural areas, there was either no water supply or the water pressure is very low. Then there’s the huge geographical area and distance from the nearest fire station, which does not help much in the event of an emergency occurring.

“We have been putting our endless effort through public education and awareness to residents, but until today we still receive so many cases of longhouse fire.

“If these people keep a nonchalant attitude about carelessness, then there is nothing much Bomba can do,” Tiong lamented.

So far this year, the state recorded an estimated loss of RM11.3 million from 19 longhouse fires involving a total of 297 doors. This does not include the longhouse fire that occurred in Katibas, Song, today.

Song District Bomba station received a distress call at 10.21am about a raging fire at Rumah Nanga Makut in Katibas. Five firefighters, headed by Nasihin Gaum, were deployed using aluminium boats, taking about two hours from Song jetty to reach the scene.

According to an update, as at 7.30pm, no injuries have been reported, but the 32-door longhouse (600 x 30 square feet) is totally destroyed.

Residents said the fire started at 8.20am but they could only make the distress call at 10.21am. It took Bomba one hour 40 minutes to reach the scene.

According to the Bomba report, the number of residents made homeless stood at 253, based on statistics from Song district office.

During the incident, there were only 10 residents in the longhouse as most of them were either at their farms or Song bazaar, while other units were unoccupied.

Fire victims are currently sheltering at SK Lubok Bedil, Song, about 20 minutes away from the scene of the fire via longboat.

The cause of the fire is being investigated. — DayakDaily