Indonesia: Fire Prevention in East Kalimantan (IFFN No. 23)

Fire Prevention in East Kalimantan

(IFFN No. 23 – December 2000, p. 37-41)

Framework and Background

Wildfires within the rural and wilderness areas in East Kalimantan are virtually all human-induced and most of them are set deliberately. Only in very limited areas burning coal seams, -mostly ignited by previous fires, have sometimes caused wildfires. A large number of fires have been set in order to clear forest land for industrial plantations and got out of control. Fire is still the cheapest tool to reduce vegetation, and for many small farmers there is no alternative to burning.

After the devastating fires of 1997/98 particularly those in the province of East Kalimantan, it has become obvious that fire management is facing numerous constraints such as:

  • A general lack of awareness and concern about forest fires on all levels of society;
  • Institutional constraints such as the absence of clearly defined authorities and responsibilities as well as law enforcement;
  • Insufficiency of available funds at the operational level;
  • Conflicting claims on land and forest resources and insecurity of tenure for large companies and small farmers in rural communities in particular;
  • Fire-prone vegetation as a result of destructive farming methods that will catch fire more easily and create hazards for future fires over large areas in the province.

The prevention of wildfires under such conditions has become a big challenge. However, human-induced wildfires can be prevented by human resource and institutional development along with campaigns to raise public awareness. Where technical fire management capacities are limited and insufficient to prevent the spread of large-scale fires particularly in ENSO years (El Niño Southern Oscillation), the prevention of wildfires from starting at all may prove to be a more effective and efficient part of a fire management system.

IFFM contributes to the prevention of wildfires by working with three major target groups: local population, concessionaires and the general public.

Community-Based Forest Fire Management (CBFFM)

Grass-root approaches are the backbone of fire prevention concepts in East Kalimantan. Many of the local people are upland farmers and use fire to clear land. On the other hand, many of them also have experienced damages and losses due to the fires in 1997/98. Therefore, fire management on village level is first of all a self-help-oriented approach. Local communities in East Kalimantan vary widely in terms of knowledge about forests, agricultural systems, use of fire, traditions, and local regulations etc. Hence, local conditions have to be considered and concepts to be adjusted according to the needs of different community groups: indigenous Dayak communities, spontaneous settlers, and transmigration communities.

IFFM co-operates with local communities living adjacent or inside of forest areas to integrate them into the overall fire management system (fire prevention, fire suppression, fire information). This Community Based Forest Fire Management (CBFFM) approach is crucial for the prevention of forest fires particularly in protected forest areas as well as in concession areas. To implement this program, IFFM works together with all involved government agencies on province, district, and local level, with the private sector, and with several national and international NGOs in East Kalimantan.

Extension work and the provision for training are the first important steps to plant “fire prevention seeds” at village level. A two-days fire prevention and suppression training follows, carried out by an experienced IFFM training team. The program includes also village awareness campaigns, nature camp activities for children, and “roadside campaigns”. Materials such as leaflets, comic books, stickers, posters, hats, shirts, and other items are distributed to spread the prevention message. Through the financial contribution provided by KfW, IFFM is in the position to set aside approximately 2000 hand tools and more than 1000 back-pack pumps to equip volunteer village fire crews.

The following is an excerpt of the step-by-step program of IFFM:

 Step 1: Orientation process/identification of villages

  • Villages selected according to data provided by the IFFM fire information system (fire hazardous areas, strategic locations etc.), accompanied by information from local government authorities and the forestry department;
  • Formal and informal meetings carried out with key resource persons from the local government and communities to discuss fire management approaches.
  • Socio-economic studies (RRA) carried out to identify and assess motivation, potential and constraints (problems) of local communities in the project areas with respect to fire management.

Step 2: Fire prevention campaigns

  • Extension meetings carried out in up to five villages/locations considered to be pivotal for fire prevention, with participants of up to 20 sub-villages/hamlets;
  • Villagers are encouraged to form volunteer village fire crews.

Step 3: Fire prevention and suppression training for volunteer village fire crews

  • Hand tools provided to each participating sub-village/hamlet;
  • Crews provide for proper storage and maintenance of hand tools (small warehouse, standard operating procedures, etc.).

Step 4: Institutionalizing of fire prevention work at the village level

  • Participatory planning workshop at village level (with representatives of village fire crews, formal and informal leaders);
  • Workshop results proposed to local and province government;
  • Province government to should provide legal framework as part of the overall fire management system;
  • Village fire crews integrated in “village structure”;
  • Co-operation and coordination of village crew with other village organizations.

Step 5: Training of Trainers

  • Up to five trained villagers per district appointed by village crews to participate;
  • Village trainers to extend village fire prevention programs in close co-operation with crews of the provincial forestry service and concession crews;
  • Job descriptions provided and compensation for services by local government;

Step 6: Networking

  • Regular meetings between representatives of village fire crews, the forestry extension service, and concessions; the forestry service should coordinate network activities together with the local government;
  • Set up/Establish a communication network

 The CBFFM will be elaborated in ways that allow for a gender specific approach. Through a study currently in process. Traditional knowledge about “buka lahan” (making a field), methods/techniques to burn, traditional regulations and beliefs are parts in the training and extension manuals. The CBFFM then has to be linked to social forestry programs such as the PMDH program and other government development programs. IFFM closely co-operates with the social forestry unit of SFMP (Sustainable Forest Management Project), the second Samarinda-based forestry project, in this matter.

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Fig.1. First steps for CBFFM in East Kalimantan

For the success of the program, an incentive system has to be designed benefiting local people who participate in the CBFFM. This also enhances the sustainability of such a program in general. The following incentives have to be part of a CBFFM system along with training and the provision of equipment:

  • Village fire crews should have regular access to the fire information system (early warning aspect, communication, coordination and co-operation in the field, etc.);
  • Career opportunities in fire management within the forestry department but also job opportunities (volunteer fire prevention crews, village trainers, etc.) have to be created;
  • Awards for outstanding fire prevention performance during severe fires given to one village in each district area.

 Fire Prevention in Concessions

During the 1997/98 El Niño drought, many forest concession areas were badly affected by raging wildfires, damaging valuable resources in logged over forests and virgin forests as well. Such concessions need technical support and inputs to prevent future fires in their areas. IFFM provides technical advice and necessary training (Nicolas and Beebe, 1999) to strengthen and improve fire management on concession level. The successful management of fires in concession areas may be one important step towards the sustainability of forests in this province. Important issues are the building up of a functional fire management organization within a company’s structure, the co-operation with local communities and neighbouring concessions, sufficient and proper fire fighting equipment, engineering work such as the modification of coal seams and the preparation of fuel breaks, and professional fire fighting skills of the crews.

IFFM closely co-operates with SFMP to support their partner concession in building-up fire management capacities. A fire prevention plan has been designed, which includes an approach towards the co-operation of the concession with local communities (Abberger and Beebe, 1999) in fire management. Training has been carried out and job-descriptions, responsibilities and standard operating procedures are proposed and have to be implemented now. Such a model, if implemented, can serve as a model for other concessionaires in the province.

Forest fires may be a major threat to concession forests in the future, particularly here in East Kalimantan. Hence, fire management in concessions should therefore become an important issue for forest management in general. In the framework of certification of sustainable forest management, fire management must be included in order to become attractive for companies. IFFM is contributing by proposing criteria and indicators for the development of a catalogue towards the certification of sustainable forest management.

Public Work to Prevent Forest Fires

The public awareness of forest fires is still rather small in Indonesia. Only during ENSO years such as 1997/98, fire becomes a “hot” issue. Therefore raising public awareness becomes essential for forest fire prevention. IFFM has been very active in designing and carrying out fire prevention campaigns in East Kalimantan, often in co-operation with local TV and radio stations and a number of newspapers.

To promote the Indonesian fire prevention mascot, “Si Pongi” various extension materials have been produced so far and a school program is in process. The famous Indonesian TV Star “Kak Seto” has co-operated with IFFM to help raising the awareness of children about forests and forest fires for a year. In April 1999, Kak Seto presented “Si Pongi” in a big show in Samarinda together with 3000 children and adults. Kak Seto and IFFM produced a common “Si Pongi” video clip for the national TV, which aims at introducing the mascot to a broader public and to promote a professionally produced “Si Pongi” music cassette. This video is another step to make the mascot commercially more interesting. A “Si Pongi” doll and other items are very popular with children and “Si Pongi” has of course the potential to become a successful product on the toy market.

Fire prevention must become part of school curricula in Indonesia. Therefore, IFFM is currently designing a school program together with the Department of Forestry and several NGOs. Within the framework of an established environmental education (EE) working group, a “nature camp” concept has already been designed and successfully been carried out. This program may become another promising approach to address fire prevention with children in villages, included in the CBFFM program.


Abberger, H. 1999a. Upaya Penyuluhan dalam Rangka Pemberdayaan Masyarakat Terhadap Bahaya Kebakaran Hutan. Samarinda: PPLH & BAPPEDAL (contribution to Training in Fire Suppression and Environmental Management, 26 April – 8 May, 1999).
Abberger, H. 1999b. Operational Plan for the Dissemination of Equipment to Volunteer Village Fire Crews within the Framework of the KfW Financial Grant. Proposal. Samarinda: IFFM.
Abberger, H & G.S. Beebe. 1999. Fire Protection and Pre-Suppression Strategy for the PT. Limbang Ganeca Concession, KLI Group. Samarinda: IFFM Working Doc. No. 2 (1999).
Colfer, C.J.P. 1999. Ten Propositions to Explain Kalimantan’s Fires. Bogor: CIFOR.
Hoffmann, A. L. Schindler & J.G. Goldammer. 1999. Aspects of a Fire Information System for East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Paper, presented at the 3rd International Symposium on Asian Tropical Forest Management, Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, Sept. 20 –23, 1999. Samarinda: IFFM Doc. No. 16 (1999).
Kleine, M. et al.1999. Report on a Review Mission to the Integrated Forest Fire Management Project, Samarinda, East Kalimantan. Commissioned by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, Unit 206: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore. Brand-Laaben/Alcona/Eschborn, September 1999.
Marbyanto, E. 1999a. Pengembangan Focus Area Dalam Community Based Forest Fire Management. Samarinda: IFFM (draft proposal).
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Nicolas, M.V.J. and G.S. Beebe. 1999a. The Training of Forest Firefighters in Indonesia. Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project, Palembang, and Integrated Forest Fire Management, Samarinda. European Union, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH and Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Nicolas, M.V.J. and G.S. Beebe. 1999b. Fire Management in the Logging Concessions and Plantation Forests of Indonesia. Fire Prevention and Control Project, Palembang, and Integrated Forest Fire Management, Samarinda. European Union, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH and Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Contact address

Hartmut M. Abberger
Fire Prevention Adviser, Integrated Forest Fire Management Project (IFFM),
Jln. Harmonika, Perkantoran Dinas Kehutanan,
Samarinda 75001

Phone: +62-541-32625
Fax: +62-541-33519


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