KUCHING: The Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department hopes to extinguish most of the forest fires in the state, particularly those in the Kuala Baram area near Miri, before school reopens next Monday (Aug 19).
Its director Khirudin Drahman said the department was continuing its firefighting operations in concert with other agencies, while scattered rain had helped alleviate the situation.
He said a Bombardier aircraft deployed by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency arrived in Miri on Thursday (Aug 15) morning to join the firefighting efforts in Kuala Baram.
“I've given instructions this week for a total knockout operation. We will try our best this Thursday, Friday and Saturday to knock out the fires before the school holiday ends.
“There are a few schools in Kuala Baram and it will be a problem for them, ” he told reporters after closing the department's innovative and creative group convention here on Thursday (Aug 15).
Firefighters have been battling peat fires in Kuala Baram since the beginning of the month.
The fires have caused the air quality in the area to deteriorate to hazardous levels over the past week.
However, the air pollutant index (API) reading at the ILP Miri station in Kuala Baram improved to 217 as at 2pm on Thursday, compared to a high of 405 at 1am.
A reading above 300 is considered hazardous while 201-300 is very unhealthy.
Khirudin said firefighters in Kuala Baram faced a challenging situation, including the soft ground there.
“We cannot bring our heavy vehicles, so we have to walk on foot. With the help of helicopters and the Bombardier today, it’s my hope and prayer that the fire can be tackled, ” he said.
He also called for cooperation from the public, especially farmers and land owners, to comply with the Natural Resources and Environment Board regulations on open burning to prevent the fires from spreading.
“It’s my wish that people will stop doing unnecessary burning. It might be the easy way to clear your land but you are affecting others, ” he said.
According to the department, firefighting operations resumed on Thursday to put out the remaining 14ha of peat fires in Kuala Baram, as well as in other parts of the state.