SEREMBAN: The public must report if they come across anyone drawing water illegally from fire hydrants, says Nga Kor Ming.
The Local Government Development Minister said this was important as the Fire and Rescue Department will face problems fighting fires if such acts lead to low water pressure in the hydrants.
"I have to make this call after reports emerged that an MP had allegedly used water from a fire hydrant for other purposes.
"It is an offence under Section 26 of the Fire and Services Act 1988 for anyone to do so without approval.
"We must not forget that fires caused losses amounting to RM1.3bil last year, and we need to be serious on such matters," he said after opening the recently upgraded Seremban Fire station.
Under the law, any person who tampers with any fire hydrant, or uses a fire hydrant other than for fire fighting, shall be guilty of an offence.
He said offenders can be compounded between RM100 and RM500 for the offence.
On Sunday, Nga said the authorities will conduct a thorough investigation into allegations that Rantau Panjang MP Datuk Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff had used water from a fire hydrant for distribution to local residents affected by water supply problems.
He had said legal action will be taken against the MP if it was true as it was an irresponsible act.
Kelantan Fire and Rescue Department chief Zainal Madasin has since said Siti Zailah did not obtain permission to draw water from the hydrant.
Zainal was reported as saying he had also checked with the state water authority, Air Kelantan Sdn Bhd, and received the same reply.
Nga urged Siti Zailah to apologise to the Fire and Rescue Services Department if it was true that she had failed to obtain approval.
Earlier in his speech, Nga said RM6.1mil was spent to upgrade the Seremban Fire station, which was built in 1960.
"My ministry has also approved another RM3mil to maintain and upgrade several fire and rescue stations and quarters in the state.
"Another one will also be built in Palong 6, and once that is completed, Negri Sembilan will have 21 stations," he said.
Nga said his ministry had also identified 69 fire stations nationwide which were older than 50 years and were in need of upgrading.
Eleven each were in Johor and Perak, Selangor (10), Kedah (eight), Pahang and Penang (seven each), Sarawak (six), Negri Sembilan (five), Terengganu (three), and Melaka (one).
He said work to upgrade 15 has since been completed.
On a separate matter, Nga said all 335 fire stations nationwide were ready to fight fires in view of the dry season.
"We have set a response time of 10 minutes for firefighters to reach any area in the event of a fire, and I must say they have been successful so far.
"It is also my hope that the public will call 999 to report fires so we can together prevent the loss of lives and property," he added.