JOHOR BARU - Malaysian firefighters have been battling for days to extinguish a massive forest fire in Johor's Iskandar Puteri district as Johor Regent decreed that a school located nearby to be closed.
Some 16ha of forest at Kampung Pekajang started burning last Friday afternoon (Aug 23) due to the current dry weather in the state.
However, strong winds have caused the fire to spread, engulfing some 98ha of the forest.
Johor Fire and Rescue Department director Yahaya Madis said around 80 firemen have been fighting to prevent the fire from spreading further, and since Sunday, they have extinguished 45 per cent or 44ha of area that was burning.
"Today (Sunday) it drizzled a little and this did not have much effect on the operation. Based on the current situation, it is expected to take four days for the fire to be extinguished," national news agency Bernama quoted him as saying.
"But if the 'flooding' technique can be completed immediately, there is a possibility that the fire will be extinguished soon."
Datuk Yahaya did not elaborate on what the flooding technique was.
Johor Regent Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim visited the area on Monday and decreed that a school located nearby to be temporarily closed.
The school, SMK Tanjung Adang, has 200 students.
A statement posted on Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar's official Facebook page said that Tunku Ismail visited the school and decreed that the institution should be closed for the time being for the sake of the health of the students there.
During Tunku Ismail's visit, he was briefed by Mr Yahaya on the current fire-fighting operation.
Mr Yahaya said his department also utilised five 20,000-litre capacity water tankers which were used to transport water from nearby fire hydrants to help extinguish the fire.
He added that water had to be taken from nearby hydrants because the capacity of the river in the forest could not accommodate the current firefighting operation.
Earlier on Sunday, Mr Yahaya told Bernama that there were suggestions for cloud-seeding activities be carried out in the area to assist in the firefighting operation.
The proposal was voiced by Johor's Housing, Communications and Multimedia Committee chaired by Kota Iskandar assemblyman Dzulkefly Ahmad.
"Following the proposal, the Meteorological Department was present at the site of the fire to observe the formation of clouds, but the result would probably be 50 per cent successful due to low cloud moisture," he said.