MIRI: A forest fire that has been raging at the Sarawak-Brunei border has spread to about 100ha, which is about the size of 220 football fields.
“It is massive. It is burning beyond control,” said Miri Fire and Rescue Department chief Supt Law Poh Kiong.
The inferno, which started on Monday about 30km north of Miri city in the Kuala Baram district, has darkened the skies.
Thick smoke has clouded Miri, causing a veil of smog, reducing visibility to just 100m in most residential and commercial areas especially in the Pujut to Lutong stretch.
Many residents in this city of 350,000 are complaining of difficulty in breathing.
Supt Law said the fires were located in the forests, making it difficult for firefighters to reach by land.
“There is no access road,” he said, adding that aerial water bombers were being deployed.
Fifteen rounds of aerial water bombing via helicopter that took place between 2pm and 4.30pm yesterday failed to do the job.
Miri mayor Adam Yii urged the Department of Environment and the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board to nab the culprits of open burning as firefighters continue to battle wildfires throughout north and central Sarawak.
“There must be concerted action to stop open burning,” he said.
Residents blamed land and plantation owners and farmers for starting the fires.
Monica Chua of Senadin housing estate claimed that the culprits would start the fires in the middle of the night to clear their agricultural waste.
“Such fires and haze happen every year and yet nobody has been arrested before,” she said.
Sarawak has been plagued with wildfires since early last month in the northern and central districts.
In the north, fires are raging in Miri, Limbang, Marudi and Bekenu districts as well as in Similajau National Park while there are big hotspots in the central districts of Mukah and Kapit.
In Similajau, firemen from Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department managed to douse 2ha out of a 20ha forest fire that had been burning since last week.
Some six dozen firemen are currently in the national park battling the fires.
The Sarawak Forestry Corporation has also deployed volunteer firefighters to help stop the fires from spreading.
According to the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department, 245 cases of wildfires have razed 337ha between April 1 and 7pm yesterday.