‘Limiting access to peat forests can prevent fires’
ACCESS to Belait’s vast peat forests has to be better controlled to prevent forest fires from recurring on an annual basis during dry weather, said the director of the Fire and Rescue Department.
Yahya Hj Abd Rahman pointed out recently that reckless activities by people in Belait’s forests sparked peat fires at the end of January, signaling a clear need for access to be limited and monitored.
The department’s latest findings reveal the start of fires to allegedly be illegal dumping and burning of rubbish, improper disposal of cigarette butts, not putting out campfires after fishing and setting fire to clear land for farming.
As Brunei’s largest district by land mass, an all-out effort to monitor all forests will be near impossible, he said, with prioritising certain problematic hotspot areas the best bet.
Spells of dry and windy weather also require extra precaution and readiness as small fires can rapidly turn into a blaze under these conditions.
“Collaboration between all the relevant agencies tasked with (preventing) open burning, protection of forests and enforcement is needed if we are to successfully mitigate forest fires from breaking out in the future,” said Yahya during his visit to the four affected sectors in Belait on Wednesday which have now all been brought under control.
He also said that improvements are needed in Belait’s fire and rescue response to peat fire outbreaks.
“Our response system needs to be improved; our mobility (of personnel and equipment), ability to tap into water sources (using pumps) and creation of fire breaks. These must be in place,” said Yahya.
Fire and Rescue Commanding Officer of Belait District Branch B Muhd Shareeni Hj Mohd Yusof also informed that three firemen have been injured during peat fire operations this year.
The most recent came on Tuesday, where a scorpion bit a firefighter on his thigh, temporarily causing him to lose sensation in his lower body. He is currently recuperating at Suri Seri Begawan Hospital.
Smoke is still emanating over 10 to 15 per cent of Sector 3, which covers forests opposite the 17 to 20KM point along the Seria bypass.
Other problematic areas were at one per cent and below as of yesterday afternoon. Some 70 to 80 hectares of forest in Belait have been affected this year.
The Brunei Times