The Malaysia Fire and Rescue Department (JBPM) recorded 2,940 forest and bush fire outbreaks in the first 10 days of this month.
Its director-general, Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said the number showed an increase over the same period last year and he did not dismiss the El Nino phenomenon as a cause, besides human factors such as carrying out open burning.
“Last year, 1,708 forest and bush fires were recorded in a month, but within 10 days (in April, this year), the number reached almost 3,000, which is rather high.
“In March alone, 8,914 cases were reported nationwide,” he said after the launching of the Emergency Response Team (ERT), here, Monday.
According to him, within the 10 days, Sabah recorded the highest number of cases at 457, followed by Johor (380), Perak (353) and Kedah (255).
He said in 2014, there was a decline in the number of cases and most of the forest fire outbreaks only occurred around February until March.
“We find there is on-going lack of public awareness as open burning still occurs and some do it to open up land for agriculture and other purposes,” he said.
Wan Mohd Nor said JBPM encouraged premises owners, industries and hotels to set up the ERT to provide quick early response to fire outbreaks and other emergency situations.
“If before this, the ERT was only established at the premises already determined such as big industrial plants and hotels with 50 rooms and above, now this is encouraged at other premises,” he said.
To date, 1,900 such premises out of 7,30O nationwide have established their own ERT.
Wan Mohd Nor said there was also the need for industrial plants to instal an automatic fire communication system link with the fire stations for quick action in case of a fire outbreak.
He said losses incurred due to fire outbreaks last year amounted to RM4.4 billion, with almost 70 per cent of the cases involving factories.
Meanwhile, Pahang JBPM director, Datuk Abd Wahab Mat Yasin said he expected the forest fire near Sungai Ular, Kuantan to be completely put out in another two days.
He said fire on about 100 acres of the forest area had been doused while the fire-fighting operation was still on at another 70 acres.
The fire that broke out last Thursday had spread to the centre of the forest, causing difficulties to the firemen to put out the fire.
The operation is being assisted by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) through aerial spraying of water using its Bombardier CL 415 MP.
Although the investigation into the cause of the fire is on-going, Abd Wabab did not dismiss the possibility of a thrown cigarette butt as the cause.