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.”