Malaysia — The current prolonged dry weather has caused Penang to be hit with more than 30 bushfires almost on a daily basis for the past few weeks.
This unusual phenomena has also forced squads from the State’s Fire and Rescue Department to be on a constant move from one point to another, in an urgent effort to prevent the flames from spreading and reaching dangerous levels.
State Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Tamat revealed this when commenting on yesterday’s forest fire at Bukit Gambir on the Penang island.
The blaze, first detected about 6.30pm, started on the hills slope facing Paya Terubong before spreading to the peak and slightly to the other side of the hill that fronts Sri Delima.
Plumes of black smoke as well as orange glow of the flames could be seen from various parts of Penang.
Azmi said the fire was put out within a few hours and firefighters had to climbed up the hill with their heavy equipment to reach the site.
“There was no access through the forest. We had no choice but to hike up,” Azmi said today. The situation, he said, was compounded by the fact that the amount of water the personnel could carry was not enough to douse the flames. “The fire mostly died down by itself. We are sending our squad up there again today to inspect the area,” he said.
Azmi stressed that if needed, the department would sought aerial support to help put out fires at locations that were inaccessible on foot.
He said the Bukit Gambir case reflected the high prevalence of bushfires currently faced by the state due to the absence of rain for some time.
Azmi said the department received 26 emergency calls on bushfires on Monday (Feb 10), Sunday (38) and Saturday (37).
The highest number of cases was recorded on Feb 1, with 41 calls. “Just imagine… our vehicles dont even have time to come back to the station,” he said. “They move from one place to another. Thats how frequent these bushfires occurred,” Azmi said after officiating at the departments annual state gathering at its headquarters here.
Fires on high-rise buildings
On another matter, Azmi expressed concern about the rising cases of fire at high-rise buildings in the state.
From Dec 1 last year till yesterday, the department received 27 distress calls from occupants at high-rise buildings. Of these, 24 involved fire while the rest were for other emergencies. “Previously, we dealt with fires at squatter areas and terrace houses. Now we are seeing more of these cases in high-rise buildings,” he said. Low-cost apartment buildings, where maintenance is not as frequent as that in medium-cost and high-cost apartment buildings, are particularly susceptible, he said. “There have been cases where the water pumps for fire-fighting were switched off in low-cost complexes,” he said.
Azmi urged joint management bodies to keep in check facilities such as dry or wet risers, pump systems, extinguishers, fire lifts and unhindered stairways.