Jambi firefighting taskforce commander threatens to shoot firestarters

An Indonesian ranger inspecting the peat forest fire at Meulaboh, Aceh province.
An Indonesian ranger inspecting the peat forest fire at Meulaboh, Aceh province. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - The commander of a fire-fighting taskforce in Jambi has instructed his troops to shoot at culprits who deliberately set fire to land and forests.

Army colonel Refrizal said on Saturday (Aug 5) that he had given the order to serve as a deterrent to people who continue to burn land for personal gain.

Col Refrizal, who goes by only one name, was speaking to reporters after meeting with various stakeholders in Jambi, which also included representatives of plantation companies.

His warning comes as fires continue to raze land in Jambi, Sumatra, as well as four other provinces which have each declared a state of emergency in recent weeks.

National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman, Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said on Saturday afternoon that 18 helicopters have been deployed for fire-fighting operations in all five provinces.

“Since midnight, the taskforce has put out forest and land fires over an area of 10ha in Jambi,” he added.

Forest and peatland fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, which caused the transboundary haze that led to record air pollution levels in the region for months in 2015, have been kept at bay since.

This, after the Indonesian government worked with local authorities and plantation companies to ramp up efforts to prevent and fight fires.

The number of hot spots picked up across Indonesia by satellites earlier this week fell slightly to 214, according to data released on July 31. The day before, there were 239 hot spots – said to be the highest number this year - which were mostly in the western regions of Aceh and Kalimantan.

Efforts of the BNPB and various provincial fire-fighting taskforces appear to have worked, as hotspot numbers recorded across Indonesia as of late Saturday were in single digits except for Sanggau in West Kalimantan, where there were 10 hot spots.