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LAND FIREs

Simple Steps to Fight Trauma

A message was sent from the cell phone of 042/Garuda Putih Military Resort Command (Korem) chief Col. Refrizal on Saturday (28/1) at 5 a.m.: "Bu Ning, hot spot info for this morning please. Thanks." The message in reply was: "Modis sensor observation, updated at 5 a.m. in the Jambi area; no hot spots are found."

 Iliyin Toni,  23 , a contract worker with the Environment and Forestry Ministry, was on duty on Sunday (29/1/2017) monitoring forest and land fires at a command post. Aside from monitoring hot spots through satellite images, the command post also receives reports from the field and compiles daily reports even if the conditions are still wet and no hot spots are detected.
kompas/ICHWAN SUSANTO Iliyin Toni, 23 , a contract worker with the Environment and Forestry Ministry, was on duty on Sunday (29/1/2017) monitoring forest and land fires at a command post. Aside from monitoring hot spots through satellite images, the command post also receives reports from the field and compiles daily reports even if the conditions are still wet and no hot spots are detected.

The Korem commander is the coordinator of a fire disaster alert operation in vulnerable areas. At least three times a day, the head of the Jambi Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, Nurangesti, and the head of data and information at the Sultan Thaha class I Meteorology Station, Jambi, Kurnianingsih, take turns sharing data on the spread of hot spots gained from the Terra-Aqua satellite, including forecasts on the daily weather, temperatures, rain potential and strong winds. Information streams through the "Jambi Disaster Alert" WhatsApp group.

NOAA satellite hotspot information is also regularly sent by Donny Osmond, the Jambi Forestry Agency's head of forest fire control. The messages are responded to by group members who would, for example, ask for coordinates. They would immediately survey the location. On the same day, the results of the surveys would be reported on the chat application. It could be that the finding is a land fire, or it would turn out to only be litter burning. Whatever the finding, the fire would still be extinguished.

This online discussion group has become an effective place for sharing information in order to maintain alertness against land and forest fires. The group, which was started in 2015, initially had 20 members. Now there are 83 members from various task units on the regency, provincial and central levels. The members include the regent, military and police commanders, fire brigade officials, concession permit-holding officials and representatives of the media.

The members have to be responsive. "If there is anyone that is negligent, they will be reprimanded by the other members," said group administrator Dalmanto, who is also the Jambi Disaster Mitigation Agency's head of disaster alertness.

Similar communication methods are implemented in Riau. All information is checked on the ground before fires are put out. This is how a number of hot spots have been extinguished.

Bad experience

The realization of the importance of intensive communications between relevant parties came after an experience in 2015 when slow anticipation and mitigation of land fires ended in fatalities. From June to November 2015, haze covered seven provinces. The losses suffered were worth up to Rp 200 trillion.

The effect was felt by everyone. "At the time, it was very difficult to consult with my lecturer," said Iliyin Toni, 23, a contract staff member at the Environment and Forestry Ministry's forest and land control directorate. In 2015, he was a final-year student at the Forestry School of Tanjungpura University, West Kalimantan.

Since June 2016, every Sunday and Monday Toni has been on duty at the ministry's forest and land fire post, monitoring a computer screen and a flat screen television to observe the spread of hot spots. The job of Tony and his other colleagues at 7 a.m. every day is to send a hot spot monitoring report that has been updated by the Terra-Aqua (Lapan) and NOAA (ASMC ASEAN) satellites.

It is these reports that reach the cell phone of Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar every day. Accurate and factual information is necessary for preventing and controlling forest and land fires.

The team at the post often verify suspected hot spots in a number of regencies. "Today there are no hot spots," said Toni, who witnessed Indonesia's biggest ever forest and land fire in 1997. Toni, who was in elementary school at the time, had to bring a flashlight to school every day to get through the haze.

Forest and land fires have been occurring nation-wide for at least 20 years. In 2015, the haze in Jambi alone caused 40,786 people to suffer from acute respiratory infections (ISPA). Visibility was under 200 meters. Flights from Sultan Thaha Airport were paralyzed for a month.

Huge amounts of money have been spent, including for a water bombing operation that used up 6.52 million liters of water and cloud seeding, which used 6.7 tons of salt.

Since that experience, prevention measures have been actively pursued. In fact, on Monday (23/1), President Joko Widodo invited all heads of regions, military commands and police leaders in regions to a national coordination meeting for forest and land fire mitigation.

The President stressed in advance that the ability of officials to solve the fire problem would be an indicator of achievement. "That is motivation, not a threat. We are making maximum efforts, together with the people, to overcome this. If there is a risk, as soldiers we just have to be ready," said 102/Panju Panjung Central Kalimantan Korem commander Col. M. Naudi Nurdika.

(SAH/DKA)

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