Smouldering fires break out on Penang Hill

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The Penang Hill fires this afternoon as viewed from Gottlieb Road - Photograph: Rebecca Duckett

A couple of activists phoned me just now to report of fires in some half a dozen spots on Penang Hill visible from the Botanic Garden area. Then I spotted smoke emerging from the hill at the Bukit Gambier area and another cloud of smoke visible from the Gelugor Post Office. 

View of Penang Hill fires from Vale of Tempe, Tanjung Bungah, at 4.30 pm 26 Feb 2014
View of Penang Hill fires from Vale of Tempe, Tanjung Bungah, at 4.30pm 26 Feb 2014

The 5.00pm radio bulletin says some 20000 people have been affected by the fires.  The Fire Department is out there and they may consider dropping water on the hill – I am not sure how, though, and whether they even have much water supply at their disposal.

Received an email from a Penang Forum activist this afternoon: “More urgently there are many fires looking that they may be out of control on Penang Hill. The damage this will do right now is huge. You can see them all burning if you look up at the hills.”

Smoke billows from the hill - Photograph: Kevin L
Smoke billows from the hill – Photograph: Kevin L/Twitter

“I’m surprised no one see is saying anything. They have been raging since yesterday.”

Fires that smoulder may be worse as they chew and spit out everything in their path while billowing clouds of smoke into the already hazy air like a chain-smoker puffing into an already smoky bar.

Yesterday morning, as I was approaching Penang Island on the ferry, I noticed a plume of smoke coming from a patch on the hill and wondered what it was.

A couple of days earlier, as I was passing by the state mosque, I noticed quite a number of cleared areas on the hill, not quite ‘botak’ but shorn of trees, leaving bare brownish green undergrowth as if a toupee of thick lush hair had flown off. I wondered then what kind of forest management and monitoring (if at all) they have on the hill. What is the Forestry Department doing about illegal clearing on the hills?

One Penang Hill resident said he noticed the fire yesterday as well. “It is not a large open fire, but a 100-metre strip along the jeep track, about a quarter of the way up the hill, was smouldering.”

Today, the fire has spread further away from the track at the 3.4km point of the 5.2km jeep track up the hill.  He said the bits that are smouldering are belukar or secondary forests and undergrowth. The jeep track is likely to be closed.

What started yesterday appears to have somehow spread to other patches of the hill. The exact cause remains unknown but the dry weather must have played some part.

I don’t think the 10,000 visitors per day (that is the carrying capacity of our hill) racing up Penang Hill in the sleek trains will be awfully impressed when they peer out of the windows only to gaze at the cloak of smog shrouding the hill.

Meanwhile the water level in our dams continues to fall.

Remember James Logan’s climate change warning of 1848 if the forests of Penang Hill and the eastern half of the island are cut?

Unfortunately, it seems we won’t admit it is climate change even if it smacks us silly in the face. (What has happened to Najib’s climate change pledge to cut emissions by 40 per cent?)

Meanwhile, Botak Hill remains ‘botak’ (no restoration so far) and it is Development as usual in our International, Intelligent City.

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Atila

Anil, past two days smell smoke at masjid negeri and as far tgbunga lembah permai area. I have asthma. Is the burning natural or human factor? I asked this becoz why only this year so many fire at Penang Hill.

henson

sorry to inform Yang & company that LGE still solidly popular judging by the fervent response of the 10K crowd at SP Setia CNY Power Station concert at sPICE recently.
LGE told the crowd without the people of Penang he is nobody and hence dispel the tokong myth.
If you think he’s a tokong, then he can create rainfall?

Yang

Majorities go to see the Taiwan singers especially

eng hock

the crowd mainly for the concert.
however, thunderous applause to LGE when he gave speech before the event surprised many like me.

Ananars

b licker

Batu Ferringhian

Actually, in the past 5 years, during every dry season, the hills near Teluk Bahang tend to catch on fire. Of course, there is no way to find out the true causes of the fire.

Ages ago when I used to live in Minden Heights, the hills behind my house would catch fire quite often.

Haven’t really heard of Penang Hill though..

It does happen but it wasn’t well publicized, sides, people are more aware these days

blame social media 🙂

or Anwar…

Yang

Who is in charge of Penang

kangelar

When council workers plant trees in front of their house, the house owner chopped down the trees after few weeks. They blamed the trees for giving them bad feng shui. How many really take initiative to watering the planted trees during drought season. We are actually very hypocrite. Cleaner and Greener Penang is just a slogan for majority of Penangites. Developer likes to plant palm trees which is not feasible to our climate. The reason is easy to maintain the trees, not need to do pruning and collecting dropped leaves. Are we really take care of the environment?

tunglang

Looks more like Nature’s ‘Red Indians Warriors’ starting war smoke signals for Komtar Tower as an early warning.
Nature has a way to ‘heat’ back when we thought we could do anything with impunity.
Last night, I had a nightmare: Penang Island was flooded ‘extreme’. The only way to travel in the city was for your car to ‘swim’ across 3 – 5ft high flood water. This dream was a dejavu of my previous recurring (replayed) flood nightmares.

Yang

Don`t blame anybody. Just blame it on the dry weather which has been around for more than 2 months. The grave yard along Lebuhraya Thean Teik is now burning furiously as I am typing this message. If you hike up Penang Hill or the dam, along the way there are lots of dry plants and leaves which are prone to fire. Worse still the resident there will sweep the leaves and burn it resulting in the smoke that is what you see in the photo. Last night I could even see a big fire burning in the hill. Lets hope… Read more »

Don Anamalai

Prolonged drought. No rain => LGE’s fault by Yang’s theory?

Miami

Yes, it is a word play…. A New World Game Sustainable…..what is sustainable….it never goes away again! Nuclear power is sustainable, so is nuclear waste! What happened in the so called cicvilized West, is happening in the East as well now Slaves for money… When you have nothing, you can lose nothing You can only gain! If they, NWO, lose they lose everything And the world would be in peace and harmony I am glad to see some people are awake 1 % of this planet try to rule 99 % Kolonial slavery ~ all over the world Get up… Read more »

Batu Ferringhian

Ok..

What is going on in Komtar at the moment?
Penang’s environmental issues are getting from bad to worse and there’s no action from the state government…

I guess ‘sustainable development’ is just a fancy word play

Penangkia

Sustainable development has become sustained development!

Penangkia

My family used to have a bungalow up in Penang Hill. We were trying to our best to plant more trees but our neighbours, the farmers, were also busy chopping down trees to expand their farms. The size of their farms were only limited by water source. They have chopped down state land and forest reserve. They were always very aggressive when confronted. Once we asked a state ‘enforecement’ worker why the state is not doing anything about the encroachment into state land. The reply is ‘my salary is ‘sikit’ only, why would i risk my life to go into… Read more »

Penangkia

The people are fiercer than their dogs!

tunglang

Anil, Cheng Beng is not too far off. We will see more wild fires at Chinese cemeteries.
These irresponsible acts of clearing the long grass without any cost should be condemned & considered liable for heavy fines.
Bomba’s beefy firemen should haul up the caretakers of these burning cemeteries & meet out appropriate penance – 100 metres walk on burning charcoal & lallang.

Note: even the souls of the dead are not spared a peaceful & safe existence. And no different from the burning brimstones of hell.

tunglang

Just recruit Nepalese Gurkhas ex-servicemen to ronda our fragile rainforest & hills.
Their khukuri (combat knife+parang) will come in handy for cutting the recalcitrant farmers & developers botak! No need for Little India barbers who are afraid of cobras!

cwf

Why penangites dont think. U think malai is like uk? Hardly any rain and with soaring temp, what to expect. Malaysia hadto import and under bn, rakyat has to work, there is no dole.