Friday, September 29

Extinguishing peat fire a difficult task, says assistant fire chief


ACT OF VALOUR: A file photo shows firemen braving intense heat to put out a bushfire at Bukit Lima Timur area in Sibu, a task made more difficult by the peat soil condition.

SIBU: The Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) recorded 601 cases of bushfires throughout the state last year.

In cautioning the people not to practise open burning as fire tends to spread rapidly over a wide area in view of the prevailing dry weather, its state assistant director Farhan Sufyan Borhan said putting out bushfires was a complicated task with peat land making up 14 per cent of the land in Sarawak.

“From that percentage, 95 per cent of the peat land comprises peat soil of more than three metres deep, making it difficult for firemen to contain the fire when there is an outbreak.

“And from January till now, there are 283 cases of bush fires in the state. From that figure, May has 106 while June, 82,” Farhan Sufyan told The Borneo Post yesterday.

He was asked on the cases of bushfires in the state and precautions that plantation operators and members of the public need to take up in the midst of the prevailing dry spell.

Plantation operators need to have approval from the authority when carrying out open burning, he said.

Asked on the number of firemen needed to put out fire in plantations sparked by open burning, he said it depended on situations, adding they usually used only water pumps to fight the fire.

Asked how long it usually took them to put out these fires, he said it depended very much on weather conditions.

“At times, it takes up to a week and may even run into a month to keep the fire under control, depending on the weather condition,” he explained.

To the public members, he advised them to refrain from carrying out burning in their backyards.

“Fanned by the dry weather, fire can spread rapidly and go out of control,” Farhan Sufyan said.

Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) deputy chairman Daniel Ngieng also called on the local people to avoid open burning as it could worsen the situation.

Earlier, a source from Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) warned the public against backyard burning.

Meanwhile, images from NOAA-18 satellite showed that the number of hotspots in Borneo had climbed to 65 on Wednesday from nine the previous day.

The 11am API reading recorded by the Department of Environment (DOE) yesterday noted 81 per cent of areas throughout the nation had moderate air quality.

ILP Miri and Seberang Jaya 2, Prai, Penang were the only two areas recording unhealthy air quality.