Fires sweep through farmland and forests in Sabah and Johor

KOTA KINABALU: Thousands of hectares of farmland and forests are burning in Sabah where a month-long dry spell shows no signs of easing.

Among the worst-hit areas are the Kuala Penyu and Beaufort districts where an estimated 2,428ha were burnt or were still burning since last week.

“It is sad to see the destruction of large tracts of land planted with rubber, oil palm and pineapples,” said Lumadan assemblyman Kamarlin Ombi after visiting the affected areas yesterday.

He said what was more saddening was that many of these fires were caused by farmers conducting open burning.

Fires have swept through some 100ha within the 12,000ha Binsulok Forest Reserve.

Sabah Forest Department personnel and firemen have also been kept busy extinguishing bush fires at the 3,630ha Klias Forest Reserve nearby.

The Forest Department has also reported that a 20ha area in the Bukit Hampuan forest reserve at Ranau district, at the foot of Mount Kinabalu, and another 4ha at the Malawaring forest reserve had been ravaged.

Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the forest fires in the state were still under control but have advised Sustainable Forest Management Licence holders to upgrade their fire prevention and control capabilities.

The Department of Environment said the dry spell that hit Sabah since last month was expected to go on till March.

In Penggerang, Johor, more than 20ha of light forests are still ablaze at Kg Lepau 2.

However, Johor Fire and Rescue Department director Abdul Ghani Daud said firemen had the situation under control.

“A total of 40 firemen have been assigned to put out the remaining fires in the area,” he said, adding that fires at Kg Lepau 1, Punggir and Bukit Helang have already been put out.

The fires in Johor, too, were caused by farmers who were clearing their land.

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