Dumai Police arrested a resident for allegedly starting a forest fire in Purnama subdistrict in Dumai, Riau, after he threw a lighted cigarette butt onto peatland.
Police chief Comr. Restika P. Nainggolan said the suspect, identified as 49-year-old Sabri, had attempted to put out the fire when the fire brigade arrived.
"Apparently he is one of the land owners," Restika said on Friday.
According to him, Sabri admitted that the fire was caused by his carelessness.
"He admitted that he threw the cigarette butt away, which ignited the dry bush," Restika said.
Sabri then allegedly tried to put out the fire. Unfortunately, his actions caused the fire to spread into the dry peat grass around him, added Restika.
Dumai Police officially named Sabri a suspect after questioning him.
"The suspect was charged under Article 69 of Law No. 32/2009 on environment protection and management, and could face over five years in prison," Restika added.
Meanwhile, the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD Riau) recorded that as of the second week of January, over 66.5 hectares of land have been destroyed by fires across the province.
BPBD Riau head Edward Sanger said the worst fire happened in Mumugo village, Rokan Hilir, when the village lost at least 40 ha to a forest fire.
"The forest fire was hard to control because of dry peatland combined with strong winds. Thankfully, heavy rain fell in the area and it helped put out the fire," he added.
Aside from Dumai and Rokan Hilir, forest fires also occurred in Bengkalis, Kampar and Pelalawan regencies. (dpk)