Sabah firefighters ramp up challenging fight against wildfires

Hot, dry spell: The number of bush fires, farm fires and forest fires have shot up tremendously from January to February.

KOTA KINABALU: Firefighters are tackling the increasing challenge of wildfires as Sabah experiences drier and hotter conditions.

State Fire and Rescue Department assistant director of operations Kenneth Wilfred said the number of bush fires increased from 40 cases in January to 304 in February.

Comparing the same period, farm fires have also risen from nine to 21 cases while forest fires shot up to 122 cases from 24, he revealed.

Kenneth said the rising number of such emergencies due to the hot and dry season brought on by the El Nino phenomenon is prompting them to implement new strategies.

“To enhance response times, firefighters now utilise four-wheel-drive vehicles for easier access to multiple fire sites. They also carry lighter extinguishing equipment such as 20-litre water sprayers and fire beaters for swift action.”

Kenneth said they would also apply the total flooding technique – a method to submerge the areas involved – using water bombings via helibucket and the fire break method, in which excavators are used to remove the burning materials to stop the spread of fire.

“These are just some of the many ways we use for wildfires and we have to adapt to every situation,” he said, adding manpower and equipment could be insufficient at times, and they have to think fast and outside the box.

Wilfred said awareness programmes and constant reminders to the public are made via mass and social media platforms.

“We warn the public against open burning 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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