Firefighters battle to keep Belait peatland fires under control

|     James Kon     |

THE current hot and dry weather in the country is causing peatland forest fires to break out in the Belait District.

It is believed that the fires are caused as a result of a natural occurrence – underground fires – as well as human negligence in the form of indiscriminate open burning.

The Fire and Rescue Department’s (FRD) Operation ‘B’ Branch is currently battling a huge peatland fire which has destroyed an estimated 50 hectares of peatland forest, according to a statement from the Fire and Rescue Department.

Areas affected by the fire include Balai Raya of Kampong Sungai Teraban, the rural areas of Jalan Kuala Balai, the Panaga-Seria KM10 highway nearby the RPN Panaga, Mumong-Seria Highway By-Pass nearby the Rasau toll, the roundabout nearby KB Sentral, the areas nearby Zainab Mosque in Lumut, and the areas from Jalan Sungai Dua to Sungai Empat heading to the Sungai Tujoh Control Post.

Nearly all fire stations under Operation ‘B’ Branch are currently trying to put out the fires in the affected areas, assisted by other government agencies and private sector bodies such as the Royal Brunei Police Force, Public Works Department of the Belait District – who provided water tanks – and the Royal Brunei Air Force, which provided water bombing assistance.

Additional help in the firefighting effort was provided by Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd, with the company deploying personnel and fire engines to the affected areas.

Due to the current situation, the Fire and Rescue Department is urging members of the public to not carry out open burning and to do their part to put out small fires by the roadside with sand or water to stop them from spreading.

Motorists are also urged to drive carefully and slow down their vehicles when driving through the affected areas due to limited visibility caused by thick smoke.

For any emergency, members of the public should contact 995 and provide accurate information on the incident. To report cases of arson, the public should contact the police at 993, while for incidences of open burning, the public can contact the Darussalam line at 123.

A firefighter on duty at the scene
A helicopter dousing the fire from above with water. – PHOTOS: FRD