Seria forest fires due to ‘human action’

National 2 minutes, 27 seconds

BELAIT

HUMAN actions are suspected to be behind two large forest fires in Seria yesterday, the first spreading across a kilometre beside the Seria-Mumong bypass past midnight and later behind the Lorong Tengah National Housing Scheme in the afternoon.

The Assistant Belait District Officer Hasmiron Hj Md Taib activated the Belait District Emergency Operation Centre (DEOC) yesterday to deal with the ongoing situation - with winds averaging between 40 to 60 kilometres per hour posing the biggest risk towards the fires spreading to other areas.

Yesterday's forest and bush fires are the most serious of their kind recorded this year, and were first spotted around 2am at the 17km to 18km point along the Seria bypass by a patrolling team from the Fire and Rescue Department who had just finished attending to a separate emergency call in Anduki nearby.

Later in the afternoon, close to 4pm, a separate cloud of smoke was seen billowing out of the Lorong Tengah National Housing Scheme, located on the other side of the Seria bypass.

Upon closer observation the smoke was found to be originating from a fire to an illegal rubbish dump located on an off-road track behind the housing scheme, with Assistant Superintendent Wan Jualini Wan Ibrahim and Acting Station Commander of Seria's Fire Station Muhd Ali Hassan both remarking with strong suspicion that “careless human action” was the reason behind the blaze.

“It is extremely unlikely that the fire broke out by itself, especially since it looks like the rubbish site caught fire first,” said Wan Julaini at the illegal dump-site yesterday.

Muhd Ali Hassan said that fire to furniture and other rubbish at the dump site soon spread to the surrounding bush areas due to strong winds, with the fire only abating hours later.

The forest fires along the Seria bypass still remains the bigger threat and DEOC has enlisted three water tankers from the Public Works Department (JKR) and the Forestry Department to provide continuous water supply to makeshift dams used for fire fighting efforts.

Fifteen fire fighters under Belait Branch B also have been focusing on creating pathways towards the source of the fire believed to be further in-land from the bypass.

The stretch of forest affected by the fire has been estimated by DEOC at one kilometre, but the width of the damage further in-land is not known as of press time.

DEOC said that they are actively monitoring the station, with traffic police on stand by to set-up a road closure if visibility significantly worsens, while JKR are readying the vehicles and machinery needed to dig into the ground to clear vegetation and create natural firebreaks. Members of the public are advised to drive with extra caution on the Seria bypass, especially after it turns into a single carriage way with only two lanes operating in opposing directions.

Those making emergency calls can reach the Fire and Rescue Department at 995 or contact the DEOC hotline at 3348046 or 3348049.

The Brunei Times