KLANG: Fires at Kampung Johan Setia, where they often start during dry spells, have flared up again and are shrouding surrounding areas in thick acrid smoke.
“It is a perpetual hide-and-seek game with the culprits,” said Selangor Environment Department director Che Asmah Ibrahim.
“The fires are usually started by illegal immigrants trespassing on the land. When our enforcement officers chase them, they run into the swampy peat land and are difficult to catch,” she said.
“The laws do allow us to go after the landowners. However, that is another area of difficulty as the boundaries are not clear,” Che Asmah said in an interview.
On anti-open-burning surveillance, she said the department's enforcement teams were activated on Monday in fire-prone areas in Sepang, Klang, Petaling Jaya, Gombak, Sabak Bernam and Kuala Selangor, and were also keeping watch on peat lands within 1km radius of the KL International Airport and construction sites in Kajang.
The Selangor Environment Department can be reached at 03-5519 7233 or 03-5521 4051 (until 9pm), and at toll-free number 1-800-88-2727 (until 11am).
Meanwhile in JOHOR BARU, Fire and Rescue Department assistant director-general (operations) Zulkarnain Mohd Kassim said fires, mainly in plantations, had been detected in Kedah, Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak.
“So far, the areas affected are small, only between one and five hectares each,” he said.
“The Malaysian Remote Sensing Centre is giving constant updates on hotspots nationwide.”
Zulkarnain said the department's helicopters would fly firemen to areas where fire engines could not reach, and about 30 tankers had been deployed in fire-prone areas nationwide.
Past experience showed that March, July and August are the most fire-prone months.
Johor state fire director Yusof Muhammad said 80% of plantation fires in the state were due to land-clearing activities going out of control.