Minister looking into preventing tragic fire outbreaks in longhouses

Voon Shiak Ni

KUCHING, Nov 25: Concerned with the challenges faced by longhouse residents, Minister of Housing and Local Government Zuraida Kamaruddin has instructed her ministry and state officers to look into the necessary procedural and regulatory modifications and changes needed to prevent the occurrence of major fires.

The ministry’s special officer in Sarawak, Voon Shiak Ni, said in a statement today that one proposal is to set up more volunteer fire stations and train more volunteer firefighters based on local needs.

“It is of the minister’s opinion that volunteer fire stations, with their own independent building and fire-fighting equipment and vehicles, may be a more practical option for the state.

“This is because there are more than 5,000 longhouses and smaller villagers scattered throughout Sarawak. Many are built in clusters or in close proximity and are away from big towns in Sarawak,” said Voon.

Zuraida made this comment after noting that longhouse fires had been occurring in the state quite regularly, with two longhouses going up in smoke this week alone, leaving more than 100 families homeless.

Meanwhile, Voon said suggestions would also be submitted to the ministry to intensify the training of community volunteer firefighters capable of providing basic firefighting and search-and-recovery (SAR) services.

According to Voon, during Zuraida’s numerous visits to Sarawak this month, she had visited quite a number of longhouses in the central region. During her visits here, Zuraida had also disclosed plans to provide safe homes for longhouse folk.

“We are calling for more volunteers to come forward to register as volunteers for firefighting rescue teams,” said Voon.

For the time being, all longhouse folk are advised to check on their fire extinguishers to make sure they are in good working order and have not expired.

As for Sg Asap, Voon said the ministry was looking seriously into the urgent need for a fire station there. — DayakDaily