Indonesia: High Risk of Forest Fires With 173 Hotspots Reported in Sumatra

Ratri M. Siniwi & Almira Shae Jakarta Globe 8 Aug 16;

Jakarta. The Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, or BMKG, has detected 173 hotspots with a high potential, or 50 percent chance, for forest and land fires on the Sumatran mainland on Monday (08/08).

The agency reported that that the hotspots were scattered over nine of the 10 provinces on the island. The number of hotspots increases by 12 since Sunday.

"On Sunday, there were 161 spots, but at 7:00 a.m. this morning, 173 spots were seen spread over the same area in the nine provinces," Pekanbaru BMKG head of data and information Slamet Riyadi told state news agency Antara.

Slamet said the province with the most number of hotspots reported was South Sumatra, with 51, followed by Bangka Belitung with 40, North Sumatra with 30, and Riau accounted with 22.

However, the number for Lampung has remained unchanged at Sunday's record of 13 hotspots, while West Sumatra reported 10 and Bengkulu four.

"For Jambi and Riau, the hotspots are still the same as yesterday. Satellites detected two spots in Jambi and one in Riau," he added.

According to Slamet, seven hotspots are now indicating a 70 percent potential for forest fires, with three in Pelalawan, two in Kampar, and one each in Rokan Hulu and Rokan Hilir.

Last week, the South Sumatra provincial government reported that it would continue monitoring areas prone to forest fires in five districts in Ogan Komering Ilir, as they tend to see an outbreak every year.

South Sumatra Provincial Forestry Agency head Sigit Wibowo said the five districts are East Pedamaran, Cengal, Menang River, Tulung Selapan, and Air Sugihan.

"Due to the high of vigilance during June and July, we found that number of hotspots has reduced compared to last year," he said.

Sigit said the team is strongly focused on preventing the fires at three critical spots, such as the east coast area in Ogan Komering Ilir, the border between Banyuasin and Ogan Komering Ilir, and the north of Musi Banyuasin province, covering an area of 1.4 million hectares.

The tendency for fire spreading into deep layers of peat makes it hard to extinguish.

"Based on the analysis conducted since 2007, these three locations have become the prime starting locations for fires to break out, so this year we want to stop that," Sigit said.

In response, the Riau Provincial Forest Fire Response and Task Force Team deployed two helicopters and water bombers to put out the fires in the five districts.

According to Air Cdr. Henri Alfiandi of the Roesmin Nurjadin Pekanbaru Airbase, water bombing operations are still ongoing in Tasik Serai in Bengkalis district, despite the fact that the fires broke out there four days ago.

Forest fires in Riau have continued to increase along with the hot weather in the province.

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