Emergency calls go up with rise in forest fires

Lyna Mohamad

Emergency calls made to the Fire and Rescue Department (FRD) rose in September compared to August.

In a release, the FRD disclosed that it received 797 calls in September, from which two were on building fires, five on house fires, four on electrical fires, one on a collapsed house and three on gas leak.

One of the building fires occurred in questionable circumstances, along with one case of unattended open burning, with the damage costs estimated at BND4,000.

The house fires were mainly caused by electrical short-circuits, untended open burning and cooking, children playing with lighters and one unresolved case with damage costs totalling BND209,500.

In the remainder of the cases, the total cost of damage was estimated at BND9,300.

Forest fires have risen in the current dry weather, affecting 331.28 hectares of land, which is equivalent to 296 football fields.

The FRD received 164 calls on forest fires affecting 247.19 hectares of land, 106 on grass fires affecting 84.09 hectares of land, five on open burning and seven caused by burning rubbish, totalling 282 emergency calls.

The FRD also received 296 emergency calls with regard to invasive or trapped animals. The number of calls received for invasive species was 254 for snakes, 42 for stinging bees and 27 for monitor lizards, while in cases of animal rescue, 10 calls were received for cats and five for dogs.

The FRD also recorded two motor vehicle accidents and two casualties, as well as two cases of car fires with an estimated cost of damage amounting to BND10,250.

In terms of search and rescue, the FRD received two calls on lost hitch-hikers, 55 calls on fallen trees and eight on roofs being blown away.

The FRD issued several safety guidelines for members of the public.

When carrying out recreational activities, the FRD reminded the public not to venture beyond your capability, or if you are unfamiliar with the area.

Members of the public should not hike alone, especially during dark or rainy conditions. They must inform family members or friends of whereabouts and bring along a whistle, mobile phone and water for emergencies.

When engaging in water activities on beaches, the public is advised not to swim too far out to the sea and must monitor children if they are playing or swimming on the beach, and wear a lifejacket when going jet-skiing, surfboarding and other water sports.

When spotting a drowning person, the public must ensure that they are able to swim and wear a lifejacket before saving the person. The public is also reminded to be aware of rip currents. They are advised to stay calm and swim parallel to the shore if caught in one. Once free, swim back to the shore.

Boat operators, fishermen and passengers must always wear lifejackets and switch on lights during nighttime or dark weather.

For members of the public whose house is located on, beside or below a hill, be ready to vacate the house if there are any signs of landslides especially during rain.

The public is also reminded not to stop or park cars near trees, utility poles or any tall objects during strong winds. Those living in flood-prone areas and near rivers are advised to monitor the water levels and to place important documents to a higher spot.

During thunderstorms, the public must avoid open spaces. They must also not seek shelter or stand under tall trees, and should keep away from metallic structures.

The public is advised to download the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC)’s Safety Guide through the Google Play Store, as a basic guideline for emergencies. For fire-related emergencies call the FRD emergency hotline at 995. To lodge complaints on open burning, call the Darussalam line at 123.