Indonesia: Choppers prepared to anticipate forest fires in Riau

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 29 May 17;

Authorities in Riau have prepared five helicopters with water bombing abilities as the forest-fire-prone province braces for the dry season.

Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edward Sanger said on Monday that the S-61 Sikorsky choppers had been stationed at Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base in Pekanbaru.

“[The helicopters] have been equipped with buckets for water bombing,” Edward said, referring to the Mi-171, Mi-8 and Mi-172 chopper types, each of which has the ability to carry four tons of water.

The operational areas of the choppers were Pekanbaru and Riau's eastern coastal area and southern area.

“Riau will see a very dry season in June that could trigger forest fires, especially in peat lands in eastern coastal areas,” he said, adding that the province had a forest fire alert status until Nov. 30. This year’s dry season was expected to be similar to that of 2015, when the province helped pollute the region with smoke.

Meanwhile, Roesmin Nurjadin air base operational division head Col. Firman Dwi Cahyo said that the Air Force would also prepare one Super Puma helicopter and dozens of F-16 and Hawk 100/200 fighter jets to back up the fire patrols.

“Fighter jets can assist in imaging the hot spots and record the coordinates,” he said.

The numbers of hot spots in Riau were fluctuating last week. The Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) recorded seven hot spots on Saturday, but the number dropped to four the following day as rains poured down on the province.

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