Bomba starts water-bombing to contain peat fire

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Screenshot of water bombing operation to douse the raging fire at Kuala Baram.

MIRI: The Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) started water-bombing here yesterday to contain the stubborn peat fire affecting over 100 hectares of land in Kuala Baram area, causing Mirians to breathe in bad air quality.

Water bombing is an aerial fire fighting strategy that involves releasing large quantities of water from a helicopter or plane to combat wildfires.

Zone 6 Bomba chief, Superintendent Law Poh Kiong, said a total of 20 sorties of water bombing were carried out during the operation which started at 2.30pm and ended at 4.30pm,

A total of 66 Bomba personnel were involved in the aerial and ground operations.

“Bomba personnel on the ground were forced to come out of the plantation at 2pm to avoid being trapped in the raging fire.

“With the wind blowing strongly, coupled with the dry undergrowth in the peat swamp areas, the fire spread quickly to new areas,”´ said Law yesterday.

He said they will do total flooding to douse the fire in the worst affected area and at the plantation area today, which had been burning since Monday (April 15).

Meanwhile, Mirians had to endure bad air quality.

As at 8am yesterday, the API reading was at an unhealthy level of 103.

However, the Department of Environment (DOE) on its website said the API reading at 5pm yesterday remained at moderate with reading of 97 – the highest in the country followed by Shah Alam and Cheras both with API reading of 93.

When contacted, Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) Miri officer Joseph Oyo said the open burning at the estates or plantations in Miri was illegal.

“We have not issued any permit since March to any plantation in Miri to conduct open burning. So such open burning is conducted illegally and we are investigating and will not hesitate to take legal action,” he said.

Open burning without a permit from NREB is an offence pursuant to the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance (NREO), 1993: Section 30(1)(a) which states — Any person who carries out or causes or permits to be carried out open burning of refuse or other combustible materials on any land without written permission of the Controller can be liable to a fine of RM20,000 and imprisonment for three years.

“Although enforcement is done on integrated basis with the relevant agencies like Bomba and DOE it is difficult for us to catch individuals doing open burning except for plantation owners.

“So far six IPs (investigation papers) have been opened,” Joseph added.

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