Indonesia –– Firefighters have asked people living on the slopes of Mt. Agung to be more proactive in dealing with wildfires, a constant threat to the mountain’s forest and shrub areas during the dry season.
They issued the plea following the flare up of another round of wildfires at the mountain’s hot spots.
Flames were spotted on Monday afternoon along a strip of five hot spots on the slope of the mountain. Apparently, the local villagers didn’t do anything to contain the fires and opted instead to wait for the firefighters, who arrived on Tuesday and immediately scaled the steep terrain to reach the fires and extinguish them.
“The fires occurred in the very same places where the last wildfires took place. Actually, these fires are very easy to extinguish and the locals from the nearby villagers should be able to do that. We are asking local residents to play a more active role in preventing the spread of wildfires,” Karangasem Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) chief Nyoman Sutirtayasa told Bali Daily on Wednesday afternoon, adding that it would be easier to put out wildfires in their early stages rather than when they had spread to a wider area.
“The residents should remain alert, and when they spot suspicious smoke they should immediately scout the area for possible wildfires and extinguish any fires.”
He pointed out that Monday’s fires occurred at an elevation of 900 to 1,200 meters above sea level, in areas that were accessible to the locals from nearby villages.
Wind and hot air were believed to be the culprits behind the fires reigniting.
“It means that a similar thing could still happen in the future, and that’s why I urge the local villagers to do more and coordinate better to immediately contain the fires in the future.”
The fires in all the five hotspots were completely extinguished on Tuesday afternoon by firefighters equipped with lightweight, portable fire extinguishers.
Sutirtayasa hoped that the lessons learned during and in the aftermath of the wildfires on Mt. Agung would result in the availability of better firefighting equipment, standardized evacuation routes and procedures, as well as the establishment of a reliable early warning system.
Massive wildfires recently broke out on Aug. 31 at eight hot spots on the slope of the island’s tallest and most venerated peak, believed to be the place where Balinese Hindu’s gods reside.
The fires, deemed the worst in the last five years, flared for five days and consumed at least 200 hectares of forested and shrubby areas before being extinguished by a motley crew of some 200 professional firefighters and volunteers, who came from as far as Jakarta and Yogyakarta. They battled the fires with a variety of manual methods, from digging ditches and clearing land, to smothering the fires with branches.
The resort island of Bali has yet to possess modern equipment specifically designed to deal with massive wildfires.
Separately, a minor fire was spotted on the vast expanse of volcanic rocks that lies between the slope of Mt. Batur and the main road connecting Penelokan with the lakeside villages of Kedisan and Toyabungkah.
Bali Forestry Agency data shows that as many as 22 wildfires took place throughout 2011. The number of incidents was less than in 2010, however, the 2011 fires razed a larger area, totaling 240.5 hectares of forest. Bangli, Karangasem and Buleleng have been identified as the areas most vulnerable to wildfires.