MIRI: The forest fires that are raging in the Kuala Baram district in northern Sarawak have brought smog and ashes to densely-populated residential estates all the way into Miri City during the night, fanned by strong winds.
This air pollution is causing health hazards to thousands of people living in residential estates along the 30km-length from Miri City to Kuala Baram.
Sarawak Assistant Minister for Communications Datuk Lee Kim Shin yesterday told Sarawak Metro that the wild fires raging in Kuala Baram was affecting a big population.
Lee, who is State Assemblyman for Senadin, said the authorities including the Fire and Rescue Department, the Drainage and Irrigation Department, the Department of Environment (DOE) and Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) are doing all they can to douse the flames.
“The Fire Department today carried out 20 sorties of aerial water-bombing using helicopter but still the flames raged.
“After two days of intensive water-bombing, the helicopter’s water-bucket is facing technical problems.
“It has to be flown back to base for repair work, so the aerial water-bombing had to be halted for now. The only way to douse the flames for now is via ground operations. This is very difficult considering the size of the fire.
“Today, there are fires in 60 acres of land,” he said.
Lee said the DOE and NREB must investigate thoroughly how these fires started.
He said if there are people purposely setting fires to clear the land, the culprits must be identified and brought to face the law or else these fire incidents will continue.
Miri Fire and Rescue Department chief Supt Law Poh Kiong, when asked on the latest situation, said the biggest fire is still more than 50 acres in size at the site near the Industrial Training Institute along the way to the Sarawak-Brunei border.
A ground check by Sarawak Metro showed that even along the Pan Borneo highway from Kuala Baram to the Sarawak-Brunei border, there are fires raging.
Huge volumes of choking smoke can be seen spreading even onto the highway thus reducing visibility on the ground.
The wild fires in Kuala Baram district started three days ago.