Peat fires – a tough proposition

UN praises Indonesia’s peatland management efforts
— Read on

Peat is carbon-rich and therefore highly flammable. In some countries, it is a common practice for farmers to set fires to vegetation to clear the land for farming purposes. This method is probably the cheapest way of clearing vegetation from land. If the land sits on peat, then the consequence is that the fires would spread to the peat and continue to burn for a long, long time producing voluminous smoke, giving rise to a haze situation.

Peatland can cover thousands of square miles, and if there are many fires burning at the same time, the dense haze created can spread far and wide, bringing life to a standstill even in faraway places. This was what happened in 2015 when such fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan created haze which blanketed neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia for months in what is called trans-boundary haze.

Fighting peat fires is a great challenge, a great logistical undertaking. Peat is commonly found below the surface, and once fire has started, it will spread quickly and will be difficult to reach. Huge quantities of water will be required to douse the fire, and when peat fires occur in remote areas, it takes tremendous resources and effort to bring enough water and manpower to the site to extinguish the fires. In fact, other than rain, I can’t think of a quicker and more effective means to fight peat fires.

Water-carrying planes seem to be the next best option. When this option is not available, then it is literally down to water and men on the ground to fight the fires. Some have been experimenting with special solutions to knock out the fires faster. One such person is Mr Judah Jay, the Singapore inventor of the plant-based, biodegradable solution by the name of Fire Terminator JN1010, which has to date proven effective on small-scale peat fires using his proprietary nozzle.

INSPIRO Fire & Crisis Pte Ltd is a fire, emergency and crisis consultancy firm incorporated in Singapore.


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