GEORGE TOWN: Six locations in Penang have been identified as open burning hotspots due to the current hot and dry spell.
Penang Fire and Rescue Department (JBPM) director Saadon Moktar said the locations are in Balik Pulau on the island, and Batu Kawan, Penanti, Bukit Mertajam, Tasek Gelugor and Kuala Muda on the mainland.
“These six locations have a wide area of idle land, bush, forest, as well as paddy field, which are prone to wildfires. So, the fire and rescue team will give more focus on these areas during this hot and dry spell,“ he told Bernama.
He said the number of open burning cases recorded in Penang had also increased over the past two months this year to 521 cases from 367 cases recorded in the corresponding period last year.
He also advised the public not to carry out open burning activities during this dry season as the fires could spread very quickly and would be very difficult to control.
Yesterday, the Meteorological Department said the current hot and dry spell occurring in several states was expected to persist until the end of next month.
In SHAH ALAM, Selangor JBPM director Azmi Osman said among the locations prone to wildfires were Sepang, Johan Setia (Klang) and Bestari Jaya (Kuala Selangor).
“To prevent open fires in these locations, we have formulated a contingency plan, that is by carrying out periodical monitoring activity and increasing our preparedness to deploy our firefighters and engines should forest fire broke out,“ he told Bernama when contacted.
Besides, he said apart from forests, they would also monitor landfill and agricultural sites in the state.
Meanwhile, Selangor Health, Welfare, Women and Family Empowerment Committee chairman Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud advised the public, especially senior citizens and children to reduce their outdoor activities to prevent heat stroke.
“Avoid going out in the afternoon, or if unavoidable, bring an umbrella or wear a hat.
“At school, teachers are also advised to limit the children’s outdoor sports activities,“ she said.
In ALOR STAR, Kedah JBPM Operation Division assistant director Nazri Zakaria said 913 open burning cases were reported in Kedah over the first two months this year, an increase from 453 cases reported during the same period last year.
“Kuala Muda district recorded the highest number of cases, followed by Kota Star, Baling and other districts. We also receive over 50 calls related to the hot and dry season daily,“ he said when met at his office today.
Nazri also advised the public in the state, especially paddy farmers, to restrain themselves from burning rice husk and straw in their paddy fields, especially during the day.
“Most paddy fields are located near the highway, the heavy smoke from the open burning activities will disrupt drivers’ visibility and could lead to road accidents,“ he said.
In IPOH, Perak JBPM Operation Division assistant director Mohamad Yunus Abu said extra attention was being given to the identified open burning hotspots in the state, namely along the Gerik-Banding East-West Highway and around Pengkalan Hulu.
He said the fire and rescue stations in Gerik and Pengkalan Hulu had also been instructed to be prepared for any forest fire operations, including by ensuring that they had all the necessary equipment and sufficient water supply.
“We normally have only one team working around the clock, but now we have two teams to increase manpower at the stations. They will also conduct patrol from Gerik to Banding,“ he told Bernama.
He said between Feb 18 and yesterday, the department received 88 calls related to opening burning, 11 of which occurred in Gerik and two in Pengkalan Hulu.
In KOTA BARU, Kelantan JBPM director Nazili Mahmood said they had received two open burning cases, each in Bachok and Pasir Mas.
“The fire in Bachok involves 29ha of peat soil will probably take a week to be put out completely, while in Pasir Mas, a small fire started by a waste collector in a landfill had spread to the entire area due to the hot and dry spell,“ he told reporters after attending the Ketereh fire and rescue station monthly assembly today.
While reminding the public not to conduct open burning, Nazili said uncontrolled open burning activities would lead to low and unhealthy air quality which could pose a threat to people’s health and wellbeing. — Bernama