Malaysia: Dry season sparks fires


PETALING JAYA: The dry season is smouldering on with forest fires raging in various parts of the country – from the limestone hills in Batu Caves to vast tracts in Sarawak.

The fires have ravaged at least 404ha - an area about the size of 1,000 football fields in the Kuala Baram district.

About 80ha of oil palm plantations in the Marudi district have also been razed and 242 ha are now under threat, according to the Marudi Fire and Rescue Depart­ment.

In Kuala Baram, firemen have put out fires in an area of about 35sq/km.

The department carried out 100 rounds of water bombing using two Bombardier aircraft of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

A smoke can be seen from the other side of Batu Caves.SAMUEL ONG / THE STAR, 27TH FEBRUARY 2016.
Smoke seen at the jungle from the other side of Batu Caves in Selangor.
The two aircraft have since been redeployed to Kedah to fight fires in Baling.

“So we only have the firefighters on the ground to deal with the fires,” Miri Fire chief Supt Law Poh Kiong said yesterday.

In Kuala Lumpur, the bush fires at Bukit Batu Caves, which started Friday morning, was still burning yesterday.

About 160 firemen are working to put out the reduced number of smaller fires along the hillside.

Selangor Fire and Rescue assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said the dry weather was also making the task more difficult.

“However, the fires are under control,” he said yesterday.

Residents of Taman Industri Bolton also woke up to see thick smoke covering the hillside near their homes yesterday.

Fire fighters managed to put out the fires, which had crept up to about 60m from the slopes.

In Alor Setar, the fire on Gunung Pulai which had been burning for the past four days, were finally put out on Friday. but firemen were still on standby in case it flared up again.

Kedah Fire and Rescue Department Supt Mohamed Yunus Abu said 50 firemen were assisted by about 40 forest guides and 15 volunteers from the state Civil Defence Department, the Malaysian Maritime Enfor­cement Agency (MMEA), state Forestry Department and the Baling District Council.

“The MMEA’s water bomber was a great help,” he said.

Hikers who had cooked on the mountain were believed to have started the fire.

Red-alert – drop a match or ciggy and a fire will start
ADRIAN CHAN The Star 28 Feb 16;

PETALING JAYA: It seems to be the burning season for the country with the fire alert map covered almost entirely in red – the highest warning – for the coming days.

The worse is, this is only the beginning.

A map of the Malaysia Fire Danger Rating System, under the “Fine Fuel Moisture Code”, has nearly all parts of the peninsula in red, with the exception of a few places, including Kuching, which ironically, is currently hit by floods.

Although there may be occasional rains, they are not heavy enough in the dry season.

Red represents “extreme” – the highest in the scale – which indicates ease of ignition and flammability of grasslands and bushes.

Large portions of Sarawak and Sabah are now also covered in red in the map.

Only a few parts of the peninsula’s east coast, south of Sarawak and northern Sabah are spared.

A Meteorological Department officer said the fire danger rating system map was modelled on meteorological parameters including wind speeds, temperature, relative humidity and rainfall.

“It explains the availability of fine fuels in the soil,” she said, urging those living in the “red” areas to be extremely careful and avoid burning.

“It is so dangerous to even drop matches or cigarettes because firescan spread very fast in these areas,” she said.

The officer said the map was not always red throughout the year.

Asked if this could be due to the El Nino phenomenon, she said: “The country is experiencing the end of the North-East Monsoon season now, which usually brings drier weather and less rain in the peninsula, especially the northern part.

“When it comes to the end of March, we can expect wetter weather again.”

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wira Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said more fires were expected and that this would usually last until mid-year.

“This is just the beginning,” he said, referring to the recent forest fire at Batu Caves. “The dry spell has not reached its peak yet.”

Wan Mohd Nor gave his assurance that the department was on alert and ready to face any fires in the coming months.

However, he said most fires were not started naturally but were man-made.

“In such weather, we advise the public to stop open burning and simply discarding cigarette butts. These will help prevent fires.”

Batu Caves fire still burning
M KUMAR The Star 27 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Firefighters are continuing to put out a bush fire which has been burning on a hillslope since Friday at Batu Caves.

The blaze has, however, reduced to small pockets of fires on the hill.

Selangor Fire and Rescue assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said the dry weather has not helped the situation.

"However, the situation is under control," Mohd Sani said.

Residents of Taman Industri Bolton woke up to thick smoke from the fires on Friday.

The fire has been burning from about 60 metres above ground of the hillside.

Forest fire breaks out near Batu Caves
The Star 27 Feb 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: A forest fire set the hillside of Bukit Batu Caves ablaze, covering the area in smoke.

The fire was spotted by Taman Industri Bolton residents at around 10.30am yesterday.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant operations director Mohd Sani Harul said the department received a distress call some 12 minutes later.

“The first fire engine arrived at the scene about seven minutes later,” he said yesterday.

“The fire was about 60m above the ground. So we also sent a water tanker.”

It is believed that the fire might have been sparked due to the recent dry and hot ­weather.

A check with the department later showed that the fire was under control with no report of injuries or casualties.