Indonesia — Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) has deployed specialist fire management teams and firefighters from Working on Fire (WoF) to enhance national firefighting efforts currently underway in South Sumatra, Indonesia.
Managing wildfire requires effective integration of ground and aerial resources, as well as up-to-date intelligence on local conditions such as fuel loads, humidity, temperature and wind, all of which ultimately determine fire behaviour. Combined, these factors will be used to determine the fire management strategy for any given day during a fire disaster scenario.
The addition of the WoF teams into APPs firefighting management teams will enhance fire suppression strategy and implementation. WoF will also provide tactical air support for APPs fleet of helicopters and the operation of two Beriev Be-200 firefighting airtankers. This air-ground coordination will increase the effectiveness of fire suppression efforts. In addition, WoF will deploy experienced firefighters to work directly with the ground crews of APPs pulpwood suppliers.
The rainy season has started in parts of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java this week, which has helped to significantly reduce the number of hotspots in Indonesia. This has provided a much needed break that allowed the firefighting teams to consolidate their resources and enhance the existing firefighting strategy.
Leon Conradie, Managing Director of WoF Asia Pacific said “Our experienced teams from South Africa and Australia arrived this week and started workingimmediately. The first thing we did was to look at the affected regions and review suppression measures taken so far what works and what more can be done. We found extreme rates of spread and long distance fire jump, with embers being carried more than 500m by strong winds. Conventional suppression tactics do not work in these conditions. Our Incident Command teams and firefighters are trained for these conditions and will apply a combination of proven techniques to contain the spread of fires. I am confident that we can have the fires on APP suppliers concessions in South Sumatra contained in a matter of days. After that, mopping up operations can start to deal with the areas of burning peat.
Aida Greenbury, Managing Director of Sustainability at APP said This national crisis has an unacceptable cost to the environment, economy and peoples lives. The size of the challenge has been unprecedented, exacerbated by this years El Nino phenomenon being one of the most severe in decades. Fireprevention and suppression is APPs immediate and greatest priority, and we are continuing to review steps we can take to maximize the effectiveness of our approach.
Experts have forecasted that El Nino will last until May 2016. APP is therefore taking preventive steps now to ensure its pulpwood suppliers are prepared for 2016.
Greenbury added The solution to forest fires requires stakeholders to collaborate and implement actions at a landscape level. This includes urgent preventive actions to reduce the risk of fires reoccurring. We have already begun this work across our pulpwood suppliers concessions such as by blocking canals to raise water levels in the plantations on peatland and are making progress on our Peatland Best Practices Management Programme in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra and West Kalimantan.
With the addition of the WoF specialists, APP pulpwood suppliers firefighting resources now include more than 2,900 trained fire fighters, fire suppression helicopters, Beriev BE-200 waterbombers satellite monitoring via Global Forest Watch, and surveillance drones. In addition, APPs community engagement programs have to date reached more than 2,600 people across 220 villages in the local area, providing training and equipment for forest fire management personnel and members of local communities.With the assistance of WoF, APP will also be reviewing existing capacity and strategies and develop longer term measures to prevent recurrence of this years fire and haze conditions.