Amid drought, Sabah Forestry Dept appeals to public to refrain from open burning

KOTA KINABALU, March 20 — The Sabah Forestry Department (JPS) has called on the public, especially those living near forest reserve areas, to refrain from open burning to prevent more natural disasters from occurring.

Sabah’s Chief Conservator of Forests, Datuk Frederick Kugan, stated that the department’s Initial Attack Crew (IAC) members are on full alert to prevent fires from spreading to forest reserves.

“Collaboration and information sharing with the Malaysian Meteorological Department, Department of Environment, and the fire department are constantly being enhanced for forest fire management,” he said in a statement today.

He said the ongoing drought in Sabah since early February, particularly in Sipitang, Papar, Beaufort, Kota Kinabalu and Kota Belud, has seen temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius.

“This has caused forest areas, bushes and grassland to become very dry and highly flammable, with a very rapid fire spread rate.

“Many bush areas around Papar and Kota Kinabalu are still burning, causing hazy conditions,” the statement read.

Frederick said many permanent water source areas and streams have dried up, affecting the ability of teams from various agencies to control and extinguish forest fires.

He said several forest fire incidents occurred throughout February this year, particularly in the Paya Gambut Forest in Binsulok, Beaufort covering about 357 hectares, and in the Sulaman Lake forest reserve near Kota Kinabalu.

“Collaboration from all layers of society, especially during the ongoing dry season, is crucial to prevent any forest fire incidents,” he said.

JPS also warns that anyone who disregards advice from the Forestry Department, fire department and district natural disaster committees and is found to be the cause of fires in forest reserves may face legal action.

They also face court charges under Section 19 of the Forest Enactment 1968, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to RM100,000 upon conviction. — Bernama




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