More firefighters deployed to Sri Aman to tackle forest fires

An aerial view of the forest fires burning in some areas in Sri Aman.

By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, Sept 18: Firefighters from several fire stations in Kuching and Bau are heading to Sri Aman today, to help their comrades who have been battling 95 hectares of forest fires.

The air pollution index (API) in Sri Aman reached hazardous level in the past two days, with reading as high as 392 as at 7pm last night.

The situation was compounded with three ongoing forest fires in Sri Aman and one in Betong over the past six days.

Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) reported that forest fires in Sri Aman were at Lingga-Kejatau (46 hectares), Kg STC (25 hectares), Hern Len Plantation (20 hectares) and Taman Harmoni (4 hectares), while over at Betong, forest fire is raging at Jalan Tisak (25 acres).

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has ordered the Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (JPBNS) to mobilise all relevant agencies to assist in reducing haze and air pollution in Sri Aman.

The smoke from forest fires permeating Sri Aman.

While noting that there were hotspots in Sri Aman due to the forest and bush fires, Uggah however pointed out that the real cause of this haze came from Kalimantan.

Meanwhile, as at 8am today, the API reading in Sri Aman has reduced to very unhealthy level at 239.

Other stations recorded unhealthy level are Kuching (173), Samarahan (154), Sarikei (157), Sibu (166), Mukah (137), Bintulu (120), Samalaju (102), Miri (125) and ILP Miri (120).

Limbang (85), Kapit (76) and SK Kuala Baram (90) stations are at moderate level.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is categorised as good, between 51 and 100 (moderate), between 101 and 200 (unhealthy), between 201 and 300 (very unhealthy) and more than 301 (dangerous).

Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee secretariat Major Ismail Mahedin from the Malaysian Civil Defence Force shared that there were 17 hotspots detected in the state, namely Sri Aman (6), Lubok Antu (3), Belaga and Marudi (2 respectively) and one each at Bau, Kapit, Lundu and Saratok.

Over in Kalimantan, 452 hotpots were detected while Sumatera recorded 243.

However, he added that visibility in Kuching and Kapit are now at 600 metres and 700 metres respectively. Normal visibility should be at 10 km and above.

“Visibility distances during haze cannot be compared or matched to API readings. This is because visibility distance is measured and updated in real time while API readings are updated within 24 hours, causing both figures to be incompatible,” he explained.

“The haze may looked bad in our eyes because of low concentration due to high water vapor,” Ismail said, adding that it will happen when particles are absorbed and scattered under the sunlight.— DayakDaily