Selangor dept braces for more fires due to climatic conditions

Selangor firefighters putting out a peat fire at the South Kuala Langat Forest Reserve.Selangor firefighters putting out a peat fire at the South Kuala Langat Forest Reserve.

CRITICAL fire incidents are expected as Selangor experiences drier-than-normal weather.

There have been two peat fires at forest reserves in Ampang and South Kuala Langat.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department director Wan Md Razali Wan Ismail said firefighters took almost a day to put out the fires that occurred underground.

“Fires at peatlands are due to warm temperatures, peat soil drained of water that sees the organic matter underground become drier thus creating favourable conditions for rapid fire growth and spread,” he said.

ALSO READ: Hot, dry weather fanning flames in forest reserves

Wan Md Razali said the department had identified three forest reserves in Selangor that were among four locations deemed at risk for large-scale peatland fires.

The areas are Raja Musa Forest Reserve, South Kuala Langat Forest Reserve, North Kuala Langat Forest Reserve and Kampung Johan Setia in Klang, he told StarMetro.The El Nino phenomenon is expected to continue until the middle of the year, in addition to the Indian Ocean Dipole that is expected until the first quarter, both contributing towards hot, dry weather.

Wan Md Razali said the fire department had stationed 17 water tankers at the fire stations in preparation to flood the areas in the event of a peat fire.

“Unlike surface fires that burn out quickly, peat fires burn underground and are more difficult to extinguish, and need large amounts of water to put out.

“The fire is fuelled by organic matter like rotting trees and leaves piled up underground. So, we have to flood the ground underneath,” he said.

Wan Md Razali said the department had 1,752 regular fire engine crew alongside an additional 474 special operations firefighters for technical rescue operations.

“The department also has 38 teams of volunteer firefighters, totalling 700. In fighting peat fires, we find that the volunteer teams are often the first responders.”

He said volunteer firefighters were constantly on standby due to danger of peat fires because the weather over the past months had been drier, with only intermittent rain.

“Volunteer teams undergo eight hours compulsory training a month at the Fire and Rescue Department.

“All members of the teams are exposed to basic fire extinguishing, rescue techniques, fire hydrant inspection procedures, and other skills,” he added.

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