Malaysia — THE Selangor Fire and Rescue Department said it is well prepared even as emergency calls continue to soar on a daily basis.
The department received an average of 60 calls per day last month compared with an average of 30 calls in January.
The department’s assistant director of operations Mohd Sani Harul said the department has been battling fires since January this year in Sungai Pinang, Bestari Jaya, Sungai Besar, Kota Raja, Semenyih and Cyberjaya on lands ranging from 1.2ha to 140ha in size.
As fires on peat and farm lands are far from fire hydrants, the department relies on other sources such as irrigation canals and monsoon drains, he said.
“Also, each of our fire engines has a capacity of 800 litres of water and this does not include the numerous water tankers that we can use to replenish the engine’s supply.
“The fires on farm land are easier to put out than those on peat land as we need to flood the peat land to effectively douse the fires,” said Sani adding that this process could sometimes take days.
In the worst case scenario, they will enlist the help of Syabas and other agencies such as the Civil Defence Department and Rela, he said.
Because of these measures, the water rationing exercise by the state government will not affect the department’s firefighting abilities, said Sani.
He said the department had also been stationing extra firefighting teams close to the hotspots.
“We are well prepared for the spike in open burning incidents as it is a yearly affair; only this time, it is happening earlier,” he said, adding that the rise usually occurs between March and April.
Sani said that while the department could handle the situation, it was a waste of resources.
“The sad thing is these open burning incidences can be avoided, but irresponsible parties are taking the cheap and easy way out to clear their lands by setting them on fire.
“Even the simple act of throwing a lit cigarette butt can lead to a fire which can grow rapidly on vast plots of dry land,” he added.
Meanwhile, state executive councillor for Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment Elizabeth Wong said that more fires can be expected in the coming weeks due to the hot weather and the extremely dry atmospheric conditions.
Commending the fire and rescue department for their tireless efforts and efficiency, Wong said that water will be made available for emergency services around the state during times of rationing.
Wong also said that a special committee was formed three years ago to look into the prevention of and solutions to open burning and fire-prone areas.
“For the current dry spell, some of our preparations have included activating the tube-well pumps at Kuala Langat South Forest Reserve two weeks ago to flood the plains and reinforce clay bunds at Raja Musa Forest Reserves to bring up the water table of the peat forest.”