Forest fires and land-clearing blazes were reported in Riau, North Sumatra and West Kalimantan resulting in haze affecting not only Indonesia but Malaysia and Thailand as well. According to Straits Times (dated 22 August 2005), “thousands of hectares of land in Rokan Hilir, Bangko and Kubu, about 400 km from Pekanbaru, have been blanketed in smoke for weeks”.
Operation Lion Heart - Wildfire was activated. Led by LTC Yazid Abdullah, Commander of 4th CD Division, the 54-strong contingent which includes a team of 3 medical personnel were deployed to support their Indonesian counterparts to contain the forest fires.
The contingent departed for Pekan Baru on Thur, 18 August 2005 at 6.00pm. Upon arrival, the contingent was greeted by the local authorities, the Defence Attache, and a Liaison Ofﬁcer from the Singapore Consulate. Subsequently, they were given a brieﬁng on the area of operations – the vicinity of Rokan Hilir, some 350km from Pekan Baru, and they had to travel by night! After some ten hours on the road, the contingent ﬁnally arrived at Desa Teluk Bano, Batu Putih the next morning, where the base camp was set up.
Following brieﬁngs by the local Polhut (Forest rangers) and site recces, ﬁre ﬁghting operations started that very afternoon. Nine sections, covering three hectares of forested land, were deployed some 15km away from the base camp. Although many of the contingent members had similar experiences with bush ﬁres in Singapore, challenges were plentiful. The ﬁres were mainly deep seated and not easy to extinguish; the undulating and difﬁcult terrain, including the very hot weather made the situation very unfavourable.
The following days saw similar operations being carried out, and at the end of the operations on 23 August, the contingent had covered seven different locations, stretching over 10 hectares of forested land and oil palm plantations.
With everyone eager to help and do something for our neighbouring country, the collective efforts of the contingent had certainly brought about the success of this mission and all contingent members deﬁnitely deserve a pat on the shoulders.