BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Forest fires raged across the Brunei-Muara district this past week as the country experiences a prolonged dry period, with flames destroying more than 161 hectares of forest, according to the Fire and Rescue Department (FRD). 

The department said the fires were concentrated in Rimba, Tungku Link, Lambak Kanan and Berakas, with hilly terrain restricting responders’ ability to transport water and equipment to affected areas. Strong winds also exacerbated the situation, causing the flames to spread rapidly. 

No injuries or damage to property was reported, despite the worst of the fires happening around residential areas in the Rimba Housing Scheme and areas around Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Universiti Teknologi Brunei. 

A total of 84 fire and rescue personnel were deployed over a four-day period from March 15 to 18. 

The FRD said between January and March 15, 461 bush and forest fires were reported across the country.

The Brunei Meterological Department said the sultanate is currently in the final phase of the northeast monsoon period, which brings hotter and drier weather conditions than usual. Brunei has seen just 58.9mm of rain this month, against a climate average of 130mm for March. 

Sarawak has also been battling forest fires with some 176 fires reported in a span of 21 days, according to the New Straits Times, with a 109-hectare area affected by the flames.

The FRD warned the public not to engage in open burning to clear vegetation or debris, or build bonfires for camping and picnics. Any reports of forest fires can be made to Bomba at 995 and reports of open burning can be made to the Darussalam Hotline at 123.