Measures in place in Sabah to fight any forest fire breakouts

KOTA KINABALU: Measures are in place to protect over two million hectares of Sabah's forest reserves during the current dry spell, says Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Frederick Kugan.

He said the state Forestry Department is on alert and has mobilised personnel to monitor any forest fire incidents.

"We have mobilised and intensified our 80 forest fire Initial Attack Crew (IAC) and 200 forest fire crew statewide to be on alert and to closely monitor forest fire incidence," he said when contacted on Monday (Feb 26).

Kugan said they were also collaborating with the Environment Department to enforce laws on open burning.

"This includes Activation of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on preventing peat fires set by the Environment Department," he added.

Apart from that, Kugan said that they are also mobilising mobile water tanks at strategic locations to facilitate as well as assist the Fire and Rescue Department in firefighting.

"This includes sourcing water from tube wells manned by the federal Mineral and Geoscience Department and located at various hotpot sites in Klias peninsula," he added.

In the meantime, Kugan said his department is stepping up maintenance of fire breaks and trench that were established at strategic locations adjacent to forest reserves, especially peat swamp area such as those in Klias peninsula.

"We are also coordinating with relevant agencies such as the Fire Department to focus on settlement/alienated areas in areas adjacent to Forest Reserves," he said.

He added that his department will continue with awareness programmes and issue warnings about fire risk to communities living adjacent to the forest reserves.

Kugan said that the state Forestry Department had also received federal funding of about RM6.5mil for forest firefighting equipment, establishment of fire breaks and training.

"About RM1.5mil was disbursed this year for the purpose," he added.

He said the Forestry Department would also assist the District Disaster Action Committee if ever it is activated.

Since the dry spell occurred about three weeks ago, firemen have been fighting over 300 cases of brush fires across the state with the Department of Environment ordering the public not to carry out any form of open burning.

Last week, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said that the state government was taking measures to handle the dry spell that was compounded by the El Nino phenomenon.

He said they are managing water problems effectively and ensuring adequate water supply for residents in every area.

Hajiji assured that the state government was committed to resolving water supply issues plaguing the state this year and this included upgrading and improving water treatment plants in all districts.

Deputy Chief Minister III Datuk Shahelmey Yahya, who is state Works Minister, said that Sabah water reserves could be sustained for three-months.

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