Forest fire close to nat’l housing scheme in Seria

National 2 minutes, 15 seconds

BELAIT

THE Fire and Rescue Department urged residents in the district to refrain from irresponsibly burning grass after another forest fire hit the Lorong Tengah National Housing Scheme in Seria yesterday.

The fire, located a few kilometres opposite the base camp set up along the Seria bypass last week to fight peat fires, was first seen as dark smoke began to billow out of the housing scheme shortly before 11am.

Deputy Station Commander of Seria Unding Anak Lagat, who had just completed a rotation at the bypass, rushed with four others to the scene and controlled the fire in under 30 minutes with five hoses from a fire truck carrying 15 thousand litres of water.

Located less than 50 metres away from a row of houses, the fire razed two opposite stretches of forest about 100 metres each before being completely put out.

Unding said he was “certain” that the fire was caused by human action, claiming that individuals had set fire to dry grass.

“The irresponsible burning has to stop as it is posing a serious threat to surrounding residential area,” said Unding, who drew a connection between the illegal dumping of rubbish in the area and yesterday’s fire.

“Last week, in a similar situation in a separate area of Lorong Tengah, a fire broke out at an illegal dumpsite. So it is likely that those dumping the rubbish are the ones setting the fires,” said Unding.

He added that yesterday's investigations revealed that the fire began on only one stretch of grass along the roadside, but strong winds carrying burning particles set fire to another stretch of forest on the opposite side.

Fire and Rescue Director Yahya Hj Abd Rahman, who visited the base camp yesterday, urged residents to refrain from any activity that could spark forest fires that can rapidly descend out of control during this “hot and dry” season.

“Refrain from any sort of open burning or throwing of cigarette butts. To successfully put out peat fires requires a lot of effort – the area needs to be flooded with water, which is challenging when the area is deep (inland) with limited access,” said Yahya.

The peat fires hitting the 17km to 18km point along the Seria bypass were brought under control last Thursday, with the Belait District Emergency Operation Centre's (DEOC) reporting yesterday that the smoke emanating from the area has reduced by up to 75 per cent.

The centre advised members of the public 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