Daily updates on fire hazards


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 07 Oct 2003

BY SIM LEOI LEOI

PUTRAJAYA: The Meteorological Services Department will now issue daily updates of the country’s fire danger rating system, designed to give warnings to firemen and the public of the places most likely to catch fire during the dry season. 

Its director-general Chow Kok Kee said although Malaysians had to contend with the wet inter-monsoon period presently, the weather could get very dry during the south-west monsoon. 

“Using a mathematical model adopted from Canada, this system incorporates various parameters like temperature, moisture content and rainfall to pinpoint the risk of fires in our forests and those of other countries in Asia.  

“Although it is meant to help forest rangers avert bush fires in their parks and firemen to better control its spread, the public can also access this information, which we will publish and update daily in our website,” he said in an interview here yesterday. 

The system was developed under the Asean Haze Action Plan to monitor forest and vegetation fires in the region after forest fires in Indonesia back in 1997 and 1998 caused widespread haze, affecting the tourism industry, the health of the population and the environment. 

The total loss from the severe haze in 1997 was an estimated US$9bil (RM34.2bil). 

The rating was produced daily by the Canadian Forest Service but, starting from last month, the responsibility to publish data for this new system had been handed over to the department. 

In Malaysia, bush fires have a tendency to occur or spread along highways, particularly those occurring on peat soil which could smoulder on for days.  

The system, added Chow, could be used to predict fire behaviour and be used as a guide for policy-makers in developing measures to protect life, property and the environment. 

Among others, the system is interpreted through six indices or codes measuring moisture of “fine fuels” such as grasslands and lallang, organic material like wood, drought, the initial spread of fire due to the effect of wind speeds and its intensity.  

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