Monday, August 26

Tide turns in peat fire battle

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Water bombings, flooding trenches beginning to bear fruits in efforts to contain burning peat swamps

Progress is being made in the battle to douse the stubborn peat swamp fire in Senadin and Kuala Baram.

MIRI: Efforts to combat the raging peat swamp fire in Senadin and Kuala Baram here are beginning to make headway, with the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) carrying out over 20 water-bombing operations since Tuesday.

In addition to water bombing, an oil palm plantation company which has so far lost nearly 7,000 trees has deployed its workers and heavy machinery to dig trenches to channel water to the affected areas while also acting as buffers to prevent the fire from spreading.

It is learnt that the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) has begun pumping water from the lake at Curtin University Malaysia and has also raised the drainage water table, with a second round of pumping carried out Tuesday evening.

Bomba Miri chief Law Poh Kiong said water was pumped into drains and trenches to raise the water table in the peat area to ‘kill off’ nearby underground fires, adding that the flooding approach has shown encouraging signs of working as the targeted area is now moist and water flowing into these area has drastically reduced smoke and haze.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin agreed that measures taken since his last visit to the fire sites near Curtin University Malaysia and in Kuala Baram seem to be working.

“My heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Bomba Miri, whose personnel have been working day and night fighting the wild fires near Curtin and Kuala Baram under difficult conditions for the past five days,” said the Senadin assemblyman, who went with Law to Kuala Baram on Tuesday to assess the situation on the ground.

He also called on the public during the current drought season to immediately report cases of open burning of fire so that action can be taken to prevent it from spreading.

The water-bombing operation continued yesterday over inaccessible areas. The fire has affected over 100 hectares of land, with smoke and ash polluting the air and choking those living as far as 30 kilometres away.