Peat fires affecting local communities and closing in on Sebangau Forest


As another drought grips Central Kalimantan, peat fires have once again returned and haze is engulfing the region. The Indonesian government has declared a state of emergency for the province and urgent help is needed to support the people battling these quick-spreading fires.

In the last 7 days (August 14-20, 2019) the air quality has approached hazardous levels and 2,136 fire hotspots have been detected in Central Kalimantan.


Peat fire engulfing large area near LAHG Sebangau, August 17, 2019. Photo by Markurius Sera | Borneo Nature Foundation


People living in Palangka Raya and the surrounding areas are breathing in toxic air every day; increasing the risk of respiratory health problems and even premature death. People have been exposed to toxic pollution from the burning peat and the health of vulnerable groups, such as children and the elderly, are at high risk. BNF is encouraging everyone to avoid outdoor activities and wear an N95 mask if outdoor activities are needed.

With drought conditions well underway it may only be a matter of time before the fires enter primary rainforest and cause huge damage to the environment and wildlife.

Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) is tackling these issues head-on.


Community-based firefighting team, supported by local police and soldiers, fighting peat fire closing into Palangkaraya residential area. Photo by Community Firefighters | Borneo Nature Foundation


BNF’s Community Firefighting Teams have joined forces with the Central Kalimantan Management and Fire Agency to tackle the forest and land fires in and around the city of Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan. The condition of the peat is very dry and a long dry season has made fire hotspots difficult to control. The fires are currently scattered across Palangka Raya, where the joint community-based firefighters have struggled to douse the flames.


LAHG Sebangau patrol unit member, Krisyoyo, quenching the peat fire underneath.
Photo by Suzanne Turnock | Borneo Nature Foundation


The Community Patrol Team of LLG UPT CIMTROP, supported by BNF has also been on high alert, frequently patrolling and blocking the spread of fire as well as putting out fire head-on, to protect the Sebangau Forest – home to 6,000 wild orangutans – from the fires spreading into this critically important rainforest.

Fire prevention is the duty of everyone. You can also be part of the solution! We will be sharing our firefighting stories and ways that you can support these brave men and women who are working tirelessly on the frontline to put a stop to these fires once again.