The Fire Danger Mitigation of the Batam Concession Agency has reported that in the last two weeks, at least 20 hectares in the Nongsa tourist area caught fire due to hot weather and irresponsible activities.
"There were many cases of forest fire in Nongsa in the recent days. Some of them in less than one-hectare area and some in more than five hectares," an official of the Fire Danger Mitigation of the Batam Concession Agency (PBK BP), Damar Nugroho, stated here on Saturday.
The Nongsa tourist area has a number of resorts, golf courses, botanical gardens and a beach. The fire there originated from roadside.
According to him, road users carelessly throw burning cigarette butts without realizing they can burn bushes and the fire can spread to nearby forests.
"We strongly discourage road users or the public from carelessly discarding cigarette butts and burning trash in forest areas. They might cause large fires due to hot weather and strong winds," he explained.
Meanwhile, the head of the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency of the Hang Nadim station, Philip Mustamu, predicted that the hot weather will continue until mid-March 2015.
The government has declared a state of emergency to prevent and handle forest fires in Riau Province, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).
"The step is to anticipate forest and field fires in 2015," Chief of the Public Relations and Information Center of the agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated on Sunday (Feb. 22).
According to Sutopo, Riau Province bears the brunt of forest fires every year. Based on the hotspot data for the 2006-2014 period, forest fires occurred twice every year in Riau between February to April and June to October.
Although the government has recognized the vested interest of people in starting forest fires and has established regulations to prevent them, the disaster continues unabated.
Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has sought BNPBs assistance to take emergency steps in case of a spread of hotspots and fires in Bengkalis District in Riau Province.
Riau province is the neighboring province of Riau Islands. (Antara)