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Forest fires spread across E. Kalimantan
Rusman, The Jakarta Post (20 Aug 2004)

SAMARINDA, INDONESIA: Fires from forests and farmland have spread across East Kalimantan, causing haze in cities and towns around the province.

Local officials said on Thursday that farmers had lit the fires, some of which had been detected in conservation areas.

"The forest fires were set by residents to clear land. Most burned areas are close to roads, so smoke can clearly been seen," said Kusnadi, an official with the forest fire control task force at the East Kalimantan forestry office.

He said that 102 hot spots had been recorded on Aug. 18, 2004, a sharp increase from only three hot spots recorded a day earlier by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) via satellite.

Thirty-nine hot spots were detected in Kutai Kertanegara regency, 25 in Berau regency, 20 in East Kutai regency, eight in Bulungan, four in Pasir and two in Nunukan and Malinau, while one hot spot was detected in both Samarinda and West Kutai.

Kusnadi said his office had reported the matter to the East Kalimantan governor so he could take measures to avoid conditions worsening.

"East Kalimantan could be placed on alert," he said.

Kusnadi said his office had also notified all municipal and regency administrations to take anticipatory measures amid fears that fires could spread further.

Haze from forest fires could be seen in Samarinda on Tuesday morning. However, it did not disrupt flights to or from the city. Residents have not been advised to wear masks.

Areas affected by fire include land within the Bukit Soeharto conservation forest, which is adjacent to the Balikpapan-Samarinda highway, and part of the Kutai National Park (TNK).

Malaysian authorities have complained about haze originating from fires in Kalimantan, saying they had ordered one million face masks and were taking measures to encourage rainfall in an effort to reduce the effects of the smoke.

Air quality in Seri Aman district in Sarawak state has been rated "unhealthy" because of wildfires in Indonesia's Kalimantan province, The Star cited Sarawak deputy chief minister George Tan as saying.

"The smoke carried by the wind from Kalimantan is turning in to our direction and is hitting us," Tan told the daily. "One million masks are now on standby and ready for distribution throughout the state."

Tan said the hazy conditions had been aggravated by a lack of rain, adding that his government was preparing to launch cloud seeding operations, in which chemicals are fired into clouds to induce downpours.

Environment officials said the overall air quality in Sarawak state on Borneo and in the rest of Malaysia was moderate although visibility in some areas was bad.

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