Sabah out to prevent forest fires across two million hectares


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah foresters are putting measures in place to prevent forest fires across some two million hectares of reserves under its purview during the current dry spell.

Chief conservator of forests Datuk Frederick Kugan said the state Forestry Department is on the alert, with the required personnel already on standby.

“We have mobilised and intensified our 80-strong forest fire ‘initial attack crew’ and 200 forest fire crewmembers statewide to be on alert,” he said yesterday.

He said it was also collaborating with the Environment Department to enforce laws on open burning.

“This includes the activation of the standard operating procedure on preventing peat fires set by the Environment Department.”

Kugan said the state Forestry Department was also deploying mobile water tanks at strategic locations to facilitate firefighting, as well as in assisting the Fire and Rescue Department.

“This includes sourcing of water from tube wells manned by the federal Minerals and Geoscience Department, located at various hotpots in the Klias peninsula,” he added.

In the meantime, Kugan said they are stepping up the maintenance of fire breaks and trenches at strategic locations adjacent to forest reserves, especially on peat swamp areas such as those in Klias.

“We are also coordinating with relevant agencies such as the Fire Department to focus on settlements and alienated areas adjacent to forest reserves.

“We will continue with our awareness programmes and issue warnings about the risk of fires to communities,” he said, adding 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 said.

Since the dry spell set in about three weeks ago, firemen have been fighting over 300 cases of brush fires across the state.

Last week, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said the state government was taking measures to handle the dry spell that was compounded by El Nino, saying that they were managing water problems effectively and ensuring adequate water supply for residents in every area.

Hajiji assured the people 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 the state Works Minister, said Sabah’s water reserves could hold up for three months.

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