APRIL announces new efforts to combat Sumatra fires

APRIL’s commitment to the firefighting effort in Sumatra includes helicopter support.

APRIL’s commitment to the firefighting effort in Sumatra includes helicopter support.

JAKARTA, 4 MARCH 2014 – APRIL Indonesia today announced new measures to combat a forest fire crisis on the island of Sumatra. Asia’s second-largest pulp and paper manufacturer said the steps include:

  • Increasing its firefighting force from 400 to 600 people, including community volunteers, to combat blazes beyond APRIL’s concession boundaries in collaboration with local government;
  • Committing three helicopters and 30 water pumps to the Indonesian government’s firefighting efforts; and
  • Pumping river water into a canal to bolster the supply available for firefighting.

“Fast, decisive action is necessary to address this crisis,” said Kusnan Rahmin, President Director of APRIL’s Indonesian operations. “We can’t solve the problem on our own, but by taking these steps we are contributing to a solution.”

The APRIL announcement comes one week after a state of emergency was declared in Sumatra’s Riau Province. Hundreds of illegal fires have been ignited there, mostly to clear land for agricultural purposes. It is an annual phenomenon that coincides with the start of Sumatra’s dry season – now in its 50th day without rain. The fires have blanketed Sumatra with haze, disrupted air traffic and created breathing problems for residents.

APRIL operates a pulp and paper mill in Riau Province. It also manages acacia plantations there to furnish wood for its mill. The company enforces a strict no-burn policy but is victim to forest fires that spread from neighboring locations.

APRIL said it has deployed 400 employees full-time on the fire lines in the past month. It is increasing the size of its force to help the government fight blazes in adjacent forests. The company said it is training community volunteers to assist.

Three APRIL helicopters will bolster the government’s firefighting efforts. Helicopters are used for daily surveillance and to douse blazes with water.

APRIL has also begun replenishing the water supply in case fire breaks out in its Pelalawan Estate in Riau Province. In two days, APRIL lifted the water level by one 1 meter along a 1,400-meter canal by pumping water from nearby Kampar River.

APRIL said its firefighters and equipment will be on display Wednesday, 5 March, at a parade in Pekanbaru designed to rally community support for combating forest fires in collaboration with other government and privates efforts.

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