In line with its commitment to assist communities around its industrial timber estates, APP Sinar Mas Forestry deployed its helicopter to help fight ground fires that broke in an area outside of its concession in the Siak District of Riau province, one of its executives said Friday (14/2).
“We conducted two (water bombing) operations. The first one on January 27, and the second last February 4 or 5,” Nurul Huda, a spokesman for APP Sinar Mas Forestry Riau told the Forest Scribe by telephone.
Nurul said that the company’s Super Puma helicopter assisted fire-fighting efforts on the ground, by conducting water bombings, at the locations of the fires, about one kilometer away from the boundary of the concession of PT Arara Abadi-APP Sinar Mas Forestry in Mengapan village, in the sub-district of Sungai Apit.
“We assisted fire-fighting efforts on the ground,” he said. On the ground, a team of fire-fighters from PT Arara Abadi worked together with members of the armed forces and the police as well as members of the local Fire Concerned Community (MPA), a community trained in fire detection and mitigation by the company.
“The fire is now extinguished, but our team continue to make efforts to keep the ground cool by wetting the area. We do not just stop after extinguishing the fire, but also continue to keep the area wet so that it does not catch fire again,” he said.
He said that the operation was conducted twice because after the fires had been doused in January, it erupted again a few days later, in early February.
“It is true that there are already a number of areas in Riau which are already entering the dry season, so that the ground there are dry and are prone to catch fire,” Nurul said, adding that he believed the area where the fires had broken was dry peat soil.
Dry peat soils are very vulnerable to fire and once they catch fire, the only way to extinguish it is by preventing the fires from having contact with oxygen, usually by flooding the burning area or by using costly chemicals.
“Our involvement is because of the company’s commitment to assist communities around the company plantations but also because we do not want to take any risk. Fires that breaks out near concessions can jump into our concession,” Nurul said.
The company’s Super Puma has a capacity to carry between 4,500 to 5,000 liters of water which they draw from various sources such as drainage canals, ponds and rivers.
The local government does not yet possess a helicopter to douse fires by water bombing.
PT Arara Abadi operates an industrial timber estate (HTI) which produces chip wood that is sent as a raw material to produce pulp at the PT Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper facility.