Increased threat of forest fires

Increased threat of forest fires

04 March 2014

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Malaysia — SINCE Sunday we have had downpours in a number of areas nationwide. However, it is still not enough to clear the haze.

The current scenario is caused by forest and bush fires sparked by the prolonged dry spell. Fire fighting uses up large amounts of water thus causing even more water stress in the affected areas. Devastating bush fires were seen in several part of Penang. It took a few days to put off the fire at Bukit Bendera and Bukit Gambir.

As of Tuesday, the drought code (DC) issued by the Metrological Department mostly ranges from high to extreme for peninsular Malaysia. States like Perlis, Penang, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Johor had been labelled with “extreme” drought code.

As for the fine fuel moisture code (FFMC), the entire peninsular with the exception of several parts of Terengganu and Pahang show the “red” (extreme) code. Both the DC and FFMC show the measure of potential fire hazards.

These indications show that we should look into fire prevention and fire control measures more seriously.

Forest fires cause severe damage to people’s livelihood. Not only do they threaten lives, they also cause economical loss, air pollution and more than ever the concern now is on the water demand it poses.

The increase in demand for water is devastating to the dipping water levels in dams. Also, water used in firefighting causes pollution because it is usually laden with pesticides, fertilisers, and organic as well as inorganic chemicals.

This further degrades river water quality when it drains into rivers thus increasing the cost of water treatment and in worst case scenarios, cause the water to be untreatable.

One best practice involves collecting water used to fight fires in the drainage system and locking it down using valves before transporting it for specialised treatment.

To address the increased water demand posed by firefighting activities, other alternatives such as using recycled water should be considered. Rain water harvesting is another way to collect water for firefighting.

People play a significant role in curbing forest fires. They should alert the Fire and Rescue Department if they spot a fire. Quick responses are vital to eradicate fires quickly.

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