Cases of bushfires in Sabah increased by over 600% from January to February 2024

KOTA KINABALU: Bush and forest fires in Sabah have increased by multiple folds from January to February this year.

According to the state Fire and Rescue Department, the number of bushfires, forest fires and farm burnings is forcing them to take different measures in responding to cases.

“From our records, the number of bushfires increased from 40 cases in January to 304 in February, farm fires increased from nine to 21 cases and forest fires from 24 cases in January to 122 last month,” said the department assistant director of operations Kenneth Wilfred.

He said in order to respond to these fires faster, which can happen simultaneously in different locations, firemen choose to travel on four-wheel-drive vehicles for easier access and bring lighter extinguishing equipment, he said.

“This equipment can include 20-litre water sprays and fire beaters,” he said.

Wilfred said they would also use a total flooding method, which is to submerge areas involved, use water bombings via helicopter buckets, and fire break methods whereby excavators are used to throw away or move the burning materials to stop the spread of fire.

“These are just some of the ways we use in these cases, and we have to adapt to every situation,” he said, adding that manpower and equipment could be insufficient sometimes, and therefore, they have to think fast and outside the box.

He said the increase in fire cases is also attributed to the hot and dry season due to the El Nino phenomenon.

Wilfred said awareness programmes and constant reminders are made via mass and social media platforms so that the public is aware of this matter.

“We warn the public against open burnings during this season and carry out patrols on high-risk dry areas such as forests, farms, estates, peat soil lands and so on,” he added.

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