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Peat fires in Sumatra pose hazy challenge for firefighters

The peat fires that are raging underground in Mandau are posing a bigger challenge for the firefighters as they attempt to put out forest and plantation fires across central Sumatra.

SUMATRA: Indonesian firefighting teams are in the midst of battling forest and plantation fires across central Sumatra as part of an effort to prevent hazardous levels of haze from spreading.

As well as dangerous fire fronts, the firefighters are facing numerous logistical issues as they attempt to tackle the blazes both above and below the ground.

Last week, the area in Mandau sub-district was on fire and in just three days, the fire spread and burned 150 hectares of land which amounts to half of all the land area owned by local villagers.

The surface fire is just part of the problem. The peat fires that are raging underground are posing a bigger challenge for the firefighters.

Local villagers have come along to help the Mandau district firefighting team to extinguish the peat fire before it spreads to the residential areas.

Zulkarnaen, team leader of the Mandau Firefighters, said: "Peat fires are difficult to extinguish. We have to drench it in water because the heat spreads underground. That's the biggest challenge we face."

One of the challenges of putting out forest and plantation fires in Mandau is its remote location and lack of access to water sources. Villagers have been trying to douse the fire using their small motorbike machine washer.

Fortunately, the areas that firefighters are trying to extinguish are located near a canal.

However, for areas that are currently smouldering on, there isn't any nearby water source and firefighters admit that fires in remote areas can only be put out by heavy rainfall.

And with the current dry spell across the region, that sort of natural relief is unlikely to come any time soon.

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