Saratok longhouse residents praised for putting out fire

State Fire and Rescue director Datuk Khirudin Drahman (centre, with glasses) presenting certificates of appreciation to Rumah Dennis Nyalamba residents for their heroic action in putting out a fire at their longhouse. - ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KUCHING: Seven residents of Rumah Dennis Nyalamba in Saratok have been commended by the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department for successfully putting out a fire at their longhouse.

Department director Datuk Khirudin Drahman said their swift action last Tuesday (Jan 11) saved the longhouse from burning down.

"The first five minutes are the most critical in responding to any emergency.

"Through their actions, they were able to save the longhouse," he said when presenting certificates of appreciation to the residents at the department's headquarters here on Tuesday (Jan 18).

Khirudin said the department would continue to carry out community engagement to train people in the correct use of fire extinguishers and to emphasise the importance of prevention.

"Our message is that we want to meet the community before and not after a fire occurs. Prevention is always the best approach," he said.

Anthony Gasah, one of the certificate recipients, said he was outside the longhouse when the fire broke out.

"I heard cries for help and I could see a lot of smoke. I immediately told some of our youngsters to take the longhouse's fire extinguishers and put out the flames," he said.

"I told them not to save their belongings but to put out the fire first. If you are running around trying to save things, the fire will spread," he added.

Anthony said the fire started in one of the longhouse's bilik (family apartment) and spread quickly.

It took the residents about 10 minutes to put out the fire.

"If we had not acted quickly, our longhouse would have been gone and people could have died," said Anthony.

"There was a four-year-old boy in the room. We didn't know he was there at first as he was hiding under a blanket but he started crying when we were using the fire extinguishers," he added.

Twin brothers Evanda Dana Manan and Evanhoe Melaka Manan, 18, who also helped to put out the flames, said they were taught how to use fire extinguishers in school.

"I'm thankful for the training. We were able to put it to use when the fire occurred," Evanda said.

Evanhoe added that this was the first time they faced a fire and had to use the longhouse's extinguishers.

When Fire and Rescue Department personnel arrived at the longhouse after receiving a distress call at 5.04pm, they found that the fire had already been put out completely.

The firefighters monitored the situation to ensure it was safe and treated the owner of the bilik, who suffered burns on his foot.

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