Firefighters battle peat soil fire in sky and on the ground

Bomba’s efforts have finally brought the fires under control. Photo courtesy of Bomba

MIRI: The tide is finally turning for firefighters struggling to contain the raging peat swamp fire in Senadin and Kuala Baram, with Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) personnel flying over 20 water bombing sorties and channelling water on the ground to douse the blaze.

The two-pronged assault included water bombing by Bomba’s Mil Mi-17 helicopters to reach inaccessible places and assistance from a nearby oil plantation company – which lost 7,000 plants in the blaze – to dig trenches in the area with heavy machinery to function as buffers to stop the spread of the fire.

Cloud seeding operation requests have also been forwarded to the Miri Divisional Resident, while a Miri Division Disaster Management Committee was held yesterday.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin, who is also Senadin state assemblyman, said such measures have been implemented since his last visit to the site of the fire near Curtin University campus.

Lee went to the ground with Miri Fire Brigade Chief Law Poh Kiong and firefighters to assess the major wildfires around Kuala Baram.

The Drainage and Irrigation Department has also activated two water pumps to help pump water from Curtin Lake to flood the area in hopes of stopping the fire from spreading further.

Firefighters have used a water pump to flood trenches and buffer zones in hopes to contain underground fires in the peat soil. Photo courtesy of Bomba

Lee said the fires occurred in a peat area and spread to a nearby plantation, destroying about 7,000 oil palm trees.

He explained that Bomba was trying their best to put out the fire together with the help of the plantation workers but it was difficult due to underground fires of the dry peat soil and the lack of water sources and road access.

The water bombing operation continues today over the inaccessible areas.

Water pumped into drains and trenches to drown nearby underground fires is showing promising results, as targeted areas were now moist and water flowing into these areas have drastically reduced smoke and haze.

So far, the fire has spread over an area of 100 hectares and spread choking smoke and ashes some 30km away.

“My heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Bomba and the volunteers who worked day and night fighting the wildfires near Curtin and Kuala Baram areas under difficult conditions for the last five consecutive days,” an appreciative Lee said.

He also called for public cooperation during the drought season and urged them to report any cases of open burning or fires as soon as possible.

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