Forest fires make return to Belait

National 1 minute, 45 seconds


BELAIT has been hit by forest fires again, with three hectares of forest surrounding the Badas water pipelines the latest to catch fire, resulting in hazy conditions for Lumut National Housing Scheme (RPN) residents.

The Sungai Liang fire station’s records reported that the fire started three days ago, with fishermen failing to put out camp fires in the area believed to be the primary cause.

Commander of the Sungai Liang Fire Station Muhd Ali Hassan said yesterday that while the fire has been mostly put out above the ground, 90 per cent of the affected area is still emanating smoke.

“This means that there is still a risk of the fire spreading if not properly contained,” he said. “The area affected is peat, and the strong smoke means that the burning is still happening several centimetres below the ground (in the soil).”

The fire station has implemented a daily strategy to flood the area by continuously pumping water up to seven hours, with water alternately drawn from the road canal using a mobile water pump and tapping into Brunei LNG's water pipelines.

“Only when the area has been totally flooded with water, soaking the soil for several minutes until there is no smoke, can you be sure that there is no risk,” he said.

Muhd Ali added that the fire station has to carefully manage the deployment of their equipment, as they still need to have resources on-hand to respond to other fire emergencies, especially those affecting housing areas and occupied property.

He also suggested that a barricade be built along the road where the pipeline runs through as a preventative measure against forest fires in the future.

“Right now just about anyone can drive or walk through,” said the commander.

The smoke from the three hectares has been blowing towards a stretch of the Seria-Lumut bypass opposite RPN Lumut in the evening until sunrise.

However the hazy patch has not affected Belait’s Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) readings, as the district’s two reading stations are located west of Lumut, between Kuala Belait and Seria.

The Brunei Times