Our firemen to battle peat fires

Our firemen to battle peat fires

15 August 2005

publishedby thestar.com.my

PEKAN BARU (Sumatra): Malaysian firefighters and a SMART team arrived here yesterday to help put out the peat fires which has been causing the haze in Malaysia. 

The 128-member team, led by Ogu Salim Omar from the National Security Division of the Prime Minister’s Department, came with 300 hoses and other equipment. 

“We hope to move to the location straightaway. We expect to be here for seven to 14 days,” said Ogu Salim. 

They were met at the airport by Riau governor Rusli Zainal and Malaysian consul in Pekan Baru Mohd Nasri A.Rahman. 

This is the second time Malaysia has sent a team to Sumatra to help fight peat fires. The first was in 1997. 

Mohd Nasri said there were 10 Malaysian companies with oil palm estates in the Rokan Hilir and Rokan Hulu areas, near Dumai, where the peat fires were still on. 

“Nobody knows the source of the fire. There might even be some fires within the concession area of the Malaysian companies but we don’t know for sure who started it. 

“As far as we know, Malaysian companies have never resorted to burning when clearing their land. We don’t want to point fingers. Our purpose is to put out the fire,” he added. 

It is estimated that 4,000ha in Rokan Hilir and Rokan Hulu have been destroyed since two weeks ago. 

A large portion of the land belonged to oil palm and rubber smallholders who have no means to put out the fires. 

Rusli said the number of hotspots had reduced considerably yesterday. 

He said 425 army and police personnel from the province were already on the ground in the badly affected areas. 

TOUCHDOWN: The Malaysian firefighters arriving at the Sultan Syarif Kassim Airport in Pekan Baru.

On why peat fires keep recurring every year, Rusli said it was because the area was too big. 

With its contour, land structure, peat soil and dry weather, even a cigarette could cause a big fire, he added. 


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