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Jakarta Post

Riau, South Sumatra issue wildfire emergency alert ahead of dry season’s peak

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, July 2, 2020   /   08:20 am
Riau, South Sumatra issue wildfire emergency alert ahead of dry season’s peak This picture taken on Sept. 23 shows Indonesian firefighters battling a peatland forest fire in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra. (AFP/Abdul Qodir)

Two provinces, Riau and South Sumatra, have declared an emergency alert status for land and forest fires as the regions enter the peak of this year’s dry season.

Environment and Forestry Ministry land and forest fire control official, Radian Bagiyono, said two regencies, Siak in Riau and East Kotawaringin in Central Kalimantan, had also declared an emergency alert status.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) earlier estimated that some fire-prone regions in Sumatra and Kalimantan would face the peak of the dry season between July and August, although the rest of the archipelago would only see the season’s peak in August.

“Some regions have passed the first phase of the [wildfire] crisis from February to April. They’re now bracing for the second phase, which will last between July and October,” Radian said on Tuesday as quoted by kompas.com.

“Since the peak of the dry season will fall during the second phase, we should be extra careful and prepared to face the fires.”

Read also: Indonesia braces for peak dry season after massive 2019 forest fires

According to the ministry’s observations between Jan. 1 and June 29, there was a 40 percent decrease in the number of hotspots compared to the same period last year. This year, there were 892 hotspots where there was a more than 80 percent chance of a fire breaking out, compared to 1,493 hotspots last year.

Radian said wildfires burned 38,772 hectares of land from Jan. 1 to May 31 – a drop of about 15 percent compared to the 45,836 ha in 2019.

In Riau, forest and land fires had ravaged several areas in Pelalawan and Dumai regencies since Sunday.

Authorities and private companies, including the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and forestry company PT Sinar Mas, deployed dozens of personnel and five helicopters to put out the fires, which they did after two days.

Dumai Manggala Agni (Forest Fire Control Brigade) head Ismail Hasibuan said a fire broke out at around 2 p.m. on Monday, burning 2 ha of land in Medang Kampai district, Dumai.

“Putting out the fire on peatland is difficult because the fire source is located 2 meters under the ground. Fortunately, we had enough water. Two helicopters from the BNPB also helped put out the fire through water bombing,” Ismail said as quoted by kompas.com.

He added that firefighters were working toward cooling down the peat to prevent another fire from breaking out at the surface. (nal)