Bambang Hero Saharjo *
Based on data from Sipongi-KLHK dated July 15, 2020, there is evidence that this year there have been forest and land fires in 23 of 34 provinces in Indonesia. The total area of forest and land burned reached 38,772 ha, with the most extensive fires being located in Riau Province.
The Sipongi data does not include fires in Situbondo, East Java on June 15, 2020 which engulfed 2 ha of land and 10 ha in teak forest, Bojonegoro Regency on July 13, 2020. These various records confirm that the entry of the dry season resulted in several areas in Indonesia be sensitive and flammable.
Other data sourced from research in Central Kalimantan in 2015 revealed that around 90 gases were detected in smoke samples from peat fires. More than 50% the gas content is toxic. The results of the research must be followed up with the availability of adequate fire control facilities and infrastructure for the fire fighters. The reason is, not a few of them are exposed to poisonous gases and do not get good treatment even though they feel there is a disturbance in their body.
The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to make the challenges of firefighters even harder. As well as the toxic gas problem, the World Health Organization report says below airborne could be a vehicle for transmission, an additional concern.
Several media reports said that there were 239 scientists who discovered new facts about how the Corona virus that causes Covid-19 was transmitted through airborne. Transmission via airborne described as spread of the causative agent of infection, due to spread droplet nuclei or aerosol.
Droplet nuclei is contagious when floating in the air for a certain distance and time. Meanwhile, aerosols are liquid particles that are less than 5 micrometers in size and float in the air. These particles can come from activities such as breathing, chatting, singing, or laughing.
The fact that the toxic content in the gas due to forest fires and the corona virus can be spread through airborne emphasized that efforts to control forest and land fires during a pandemic have more issues that need attention.
Science as a basis
Based on information from BMKG and other relevant agencies, it seems that the threat of fire hazard this year is not as big as last year. However, vigilance must still be maintained.
We must learn from the experience of last year, when many predicted that forest and land fires would not be as massive as before. In fact, the forest and land fires in 2019 engulfed three times as large an area as the forest and land fires in the previous year.
Based on field facts and investigation results, there are several factors that make fires not easy to control. First, fire control facilities and infrastructure are minimal and inadequate both in number and in specifications. Second, the location of the fire is difficult to reach. Third, fires occurred in several locations in one day, but the facilities and infrastructure for extinguishing them were limited.
Fourth, weather conditions are not conducive due to strong winds that change direction, unusual daily temperatures, and difficulty getting to rain clouds. Fifth, fires occur in locations with high fuel potential, such as logs from decaying natural forest. Sixth, there is not enough water source for blackout, and seventh, the absence of adequate means of transportation to the location of the fire.
Relying on findings and experiences in the field can be a first step towards controlling forest and land fires. Instead of using heavy equipment that is more expensive, tends to be uneducated, and results in repeated fires other research-based alternatives are worth trying.
In fact, forest and land fires occur due to human activity and thus efforts to control them can be carried out. It's just that control methods that only see temporary interests will not be optimal and tend to make forest and land fires recur. It is time to put science as the cornerstone of controlling forest and land fires in Indonesia.
* The author is a Professor at the Bogor Agricultural University and an expert on forest fire forensics