Forest Fire Alert Issued as Hundreds of Hotspots Detected in Riau

JULY 30, 2015

Jakarta. Indonesia's meteorological agency has detected more than a hundred fire hotspots in eight areas across Riau province on Thursday, warning residents and officials of exacerbating haze from forest and land fires.
Pekanbaru's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has so far identified 140 hotspots, with three particular districts expected to be the biggest contributors of haze, said BMKG chief Sugarin.

"Out of the eight districts, Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir will likely be the source of the greatest amount of haze," Sugarin said on Thursday.

Pelalawan currently has 40 fire hotspots, Indragiri Hilir has 33 and Indragiri Hulu 47, while the remaining are spread throughout Siak, Bengkalis, Dumai, Kampar and Kuantan Singingi. 
Sugarin said the agency earlier detected 326 fire hotspots across seven provinces on Sumatra island, with the majority concentrated in Riau, where as of last Sunday 1,246 hectares of land have gone ablaze. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency  (BNPB) has dispatched two helicopters to waterbomb these areas in an attempt to prevent the fires from spreading.

"Each helicopter can operate for three hours before returning to headquarters to refuel," said Riau BPBD chief Edwar Sanger.

The increasing number of fire hotspots emerging across the province has deteriorated its air quality, Sugarin said.
"According to our monitors, the air here has become unhealthy," he said, adding that the number of residents suffering from respiratory ailments (ISPA) as a result of the haze has increased by 10 percent.

"More than 1,400 people are presently struggling with ISPA. Yet, this number is still categorized as normal," said Helsa S. Munir, head of Pekanbaru's health agency.

Riau has for years been plagued by debilitating haze caused by bush and forest fires, especially in the dry season.