Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA) - The South Sumatra police on Wednesday dispatched 300 officers to villages that have been determined to be vulnerable to wildfires during this year's dry season on account of the El Nino climate pattern.

South Sumatra Police Chief Inspector General A. Rachmad Wibowo sent off the personnel to support "Operation Stop Wildfires," which has been initiated as part of the government's land and forest fire prevention efforts.

Speaking to the personnel during a roll call in Palembang City, he instructed them to help make residents in the targeted villages aware of the importance of assisting in wildfire prevention efforts.

"I ask you all to prioritize persuasive and humanistic approaches to encourage the villagers, including those in outer areas, to actively participate in wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts," he said.

The prevention efforts include stopping the slash-and-burn agricultural method and refraining from burning agricultural waste and other combustible materials that could trigger wildfires, he added.

Meanwhile, mitigation efforts could involve preparing volunteer groups for extinguishing wildfires in villages, he said.

Wibowo further warned that an increase in wildfires in South Sumatra must become a common concern because they can potentially trigger a haze disaster that could disrupt locals' activities as well as public health.

Head of the South Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Ansori, said earlier that public involvement in wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts is vital.

"The wildfires that occur this year are one of the biggest disasters after those of 2015 and 2019," he noted, adding that several hundred hectares of land in the districts of Ogan Komering Ilir and Ogan Ilir have been ravaged by wildfires.

Taking note of the situation, chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Suharyanto, said earlier that the wildfires in Ogan Komering Ilir district, South Sumatra, have not affected neighboring countries.

"It has been checked that there is indeed a fire, but the report that the smoke is extraordinary and can disturb or cross into the territories of neighboring countries is false," he clarified.

He said that the fires in most of the affected lands in South Sumatra have been extinguished, adding that it has remained difficult to handle fire outbreaks in some remote points.

"With water bombing support, fire escalation can be handled," he added.

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Translator: Yudi A, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Sri Haryati
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