Trapped between two extremes – fire and floods

JOHOR BARU: With heavy rainfall leading to floods or extremely hot conditions causing forest fires – firemen are having their hands full trying to handle two different extremes caused by the changes in weather patterns.

The Fire and Rescue Department is now monitoring dozens of flood-prone areas and forest fire hotspots around the country, especially in Selangor, Pahang, Perak, Penang, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak, said its director-general Datuk Seri Mohammad Hamdan Wahid.

“All our 12,500 personnel from 327 fire stations nationwide have been put on alert as according to the Meteorology Department, the south-west monsoon is expected to bring about a dry spell until September.

“However, due to climate change, we have been getting reports of flooding in some parts of Selangor as well,” he said after presenting certificates to outstanding firemen and volunteer firefighters here yesterday.

Mohammad Hamdan said the department was monitoring hotspots especially around forests, peat soil areas and landfills.

He added that the department would be using drones to carry out surveillance around hotspots as this would allow it to identify the exact areas which required firefighting and to effectively channel manpower.

He also urged landfill operators to be cautious and ensure fires did not start at their locations as extinguishing fires there was extremely challenging because it would need a lot of manpower and heavy machinery, since such fires could be deep below the surface.

“We also need to be careful about the toxic gases being emitted at these places, which can be dangerous to the nearby population,” he said.

He also said most of the forest fires around the country were mainly “man-made”, caused by those clearing land for agriculture activities or hikers and campers.

“People should also refrain from carrying out slash-and-burn activities during the dry spell as it can lead to haze if it gets out of hand,” he said.

Asked about a Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) student who was found dead in her hostel room after possibly being electrocuted, Mohammad Hamdan said the department would be carrying out its own investigations.

He advised people to be careful with having too many extension points from one plug point as it could be dangerous.

“People need to check their electrical appliances as some, like water heaters, have a lifespan.

“We have cases where a husband gets electrocuted due to a faulty water heater and the wife coming to save him is also shocked, resulting in both of their deaths,” he said.

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