Malaysia: More bush fires due to heat wave

Ben Tan and Phuah Ken Lin New Straits Times 12 Feb 14;

HOT AND DRY: Bush fires on the rise nationwide

KUALA LUMPUR: THE heat wave engulfing the country has not only left Malaysians running for the shade, but also hinted at more severe consequences in store.

The dry spell has triggered a series of bush fires nationwide, keeping emergency services personnel busy around the clock.

The lack of rain has also raised concerns over depleting water levels in dams, such as Negri Sembilan's Kelinchi dam, which had almost reached critical level.

Bush fires sparked by the hot spell are on the rise, with 312 cases reported nationwide in just 24 hours since Monday.

Selangor recorded the highest number of bush fires with 79 cases followed by Perak with 70, between Monday and yesterday.

An official from the Fire and Rescue Department operations centre said the spike began on Jan 28, when they recorded 139 cases nationwide.

"This was a dramatic rise from Jan 26, which had only 100 cases. On regular days, we record fewer than 100 cases daily.

He said all states had increased the number of personnel on duty to cope with the problem.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department operations assistant director Mohamad Sani Harul said the total number of cases from Feb 1 to Feb 9 had surpassed last month's figures.

Checks also showed that the weather had resulted in deteriorating air quality in several states.

As of 6pm yesterday, Muar, Johor topped the air pollutant index chart with a reading of 68, followed by Banting, Selangor and Bakar Arang, Kedah with 66.

In Butterworth, the prolonged hot spell in the state had triggered 700 bush fires in the past three months.

Penang Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Tamat said the number of bush fires had escalated and the department expected the drought to continue throughout this month.

He said firemen also had a tough time tackling open fires due to some sites which are geographically isolated, such as the blaze in Bukit Gambir early yesterday.

In Ipoh, the drought has taken its toll on the forested area in northern Perak with fire raging through a section of the green canopy near Banding Lake, at the Royal Belum border.

Perak Fire and Rescue Department assistant director in charge of operations Wan Azmi Ahmad said their personnel encountered difficulties reaching the area due to the terrain.

"As of now, I was told that the team are using boats to cross the large lake. From there they will have to hike to the affected area to assess the situation."

Despite being the wettest town in Malaysia, Taiping has not been spared water woes since the dry spell began.

"Taiping has been experiencing low pressure since Chinese New Year," said Perak Water Board general manager Datuk Mohd Yusof Mohd Isa.

He said the board had been sending water tankers to Taiping to resolve the situation.

Yusof also advised Perak's 2.4 million population to use water sparingly as the drought season was expected to continue until next month.

In Kuantan, firefighters were kept busy battling a peat fire at an oil palm plantation near the Endau-Rompin Forest Reserve in Rompin.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Datuk Abdul Wahab Mat Yassin said firefighters from Rompin and Kuantan would ensure that the fire does not spread into the forest reserve and destroy the rich fauna and flora there.

"We believe that the fire could have caused by open burning." Additional reporting by Jaspal Singh, Aliza Shah and Iskandar Tajuddin

Malaysia, Ipoh: Massive forest fire puts dept on full alert
The Star 13 Feb 14;

IPOH: The state Fire and Rescue Department is on full alert over a massive fire that has engulfed almost 60ha of forest near Tasik Bersia in Gerik.

A spokesman at the rescue operations centre said they received a report on the fire at 11am on Tuesday but they had yet to find out how and when it started.

He said initial investigations showed that there were no villages or settlements around the affected area.

“An operations centre was set up some 15km away from the fire zone so that we could get first-hand updates on the situation there,” he said.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Yahaya Madis said they would do the necessary to prevent the fire from spreading.

He said a rescue team had been deployed to inspect the site.

“We are looking for an alternative route to get there. Our operations are hindered by many geographical restrictions on the mountainous land.

“We are seeking a shorter route through waterways so that we can get there as soon as possible,” he said.

Yahaya said he had ordered about 190 officers and members from all over the state to join the operations.

Number has tripled due to dry spell, says D-G
The Star 13 Feb 14;

PETALING JAYA: The number of forest and bushfires nationwide has tripled due to the current dry spell.

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said the country recorded an average of 300 forest fires daily compared to 100 on normal days.

“The states with the most number of cases are Selangor, Johor and Perak,” he said yesterday.

According to Wan Mohd Nor, another contributing factor to forest fires was open burning by irresponsible people.

“An open burning can spread like wildfire if it is allowed to continue.

“In the current dry weather, small fires, whether to burn rubbish or other items, can easily become larger and lead to forest fires,” he said.

Wan Mohd Nor also cautioned smokers against flicking cigarette butts in areas that could cause accidental fires.

“More than 13,000 department personnel are on stand-by in case the situation worsens,” he said.

In PUTRAJAYA, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom urged mosques and surau to organise a solat hajat (special prayer) for the current dry spell to end.

He said they could organise the prayer after Friday prayers tomorrow. As for surau, the prayer could be organised at its committees’ convenience, he said.

Meanwhile, rainfall in several areas in the Klang Valley yesterday provided some respite for the Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Depart­ment’s battle against bushfires.

Deputy director Azizan Ismail said the rain had made their job easier in battling a spate of bushfires around Bukit Jalil area.

The department has faced a series of bushfires since early this week due to the hot weather.