More community, volunteer firefighters needed in semi-urban and rural areas

Khirudin (second left) receives a grant of RM70,500 for Sarawak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Force (PBS) from Bomba director-general Datuk Mohammad Hamdan Wahid, witnessed by state Bomba acting deputy director Tiong Ling Hii (left) and Labuan Bomba director Zainal Madasin (right)

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by Nancy Nais

KUCHING, Dec 1: The Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department needs more community and volunteer firefighters, especially in semi-urban and rural areas.

Urging more people to set up or join the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Force (PBS), state Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman said this is important as they are the first responders in times of emergency situations while waiting for firefighters to arrive.

Citing success stories where the community approach has proven and shown some success, Khirudin said, “There was a longhouse fire on Sept 2, where Long Pilah PBS team was alert and responded fast by using fire extinguishers which was placed along the ‘ruai’ to save their 200-door longhouse from being razed to ashes.

“Two years ago, a PBS Bako Indah member saved a man from drowning after the later slipped and fell into the Bako river while conducting electrical inspection. Without hesitating, he plunged into the river to save the victim,” he said at the PBS convention (Borneo zone) closing ceremony today.

Since the department could not always response to emergencies within the five-minute time frame as per standard operating procedure (SOP) as some cases happened 100km away from the firestation, Khirudin asserted that PBS is crucial as some cases are not even accessible by road or worse, it may take up to two days to reach via logging routes or due to bad weather.

Thus, the department’s approach is to create trained community, volunteer and auxiliary firemen as well as community emergency response teams which can take early action, reduce the impact of a fire or be responsible by educating others even before disasters occur.

A Volunteer Fire and Rescue Force (PBS) team in action at the 2019 Borneo zone convention in Kuching.

Thanking all PBS members in the state for volunteering for a noble cause, he told those present at the convention that the word ‘volunteer’ means ‘by own will, not forced, with sincere intent without hoping for anything in return’.

“These people sacrifice their own time, energy, things and sometimes their own funds to help others to carry out firefighting or community tasks. And today, we would like to thank all of you for this,” he said.

He also asserted that the role of PBS is not just in the event of a disaster or firefighting operations but also in carrying out awareness programmes with firefighters at schools and other villages where they teach the community and demonstrate how to use basic equipment such as fire extinguishers.

A total of 14 teams from Sarawak and Labuan took part in the two-day convention. They also competed in firefighting, Ironman PBS and fireman lift events.

The team from PBS Labuan 1 emerged as the overall champion. — DayakDaily