Fires break out at two hills in Penang

GEORGE TOWN - Thick smoke could be seen billowing from as far as 10km away as fire raged at Bukit Bendera (Penang Hill) and Bukit FRU (FRU Hill). The fire at seven spots covered about 1ha of forest on the hills.

Bagan Jermal fire station senior assistant superintendent and operations commander A. Ravi said it could not be confirmed when the fire broke out but firemen started putting it out as early as 3am yesterday.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Tamat said hiking trails that were closed included Point 46 and Point 84, both at Bukit Bendera.

It is learnt that an elderly couple living on Bukit Bendera, near Point 84, were being persuaded to be relocated by firefighters to a Hindu temple on top of the hill.

"As there is no water supply on top of both hills, a Bombardier plane belonging to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency was sent to help put out the fire. Due to safety reasons also, hikers were evacuated from Bukit Bendera.

"Public entrances to the hill from the Botanic Gardens, the Penang Municipal Park and Moongate were also closed," he said.

Police and firemen were deployed to Jalan Jesselton and Jalan Air Terjun to ensure the public did not go near the foot of the hill.

Only residents living in the area were allowed to go through. Both the roads will remain closed to the public until further notice.

State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said that at 6.26pm, the Bombardier plane released the first water-bomb at Bukit Bendera to extinguish the fire. Seven water-bombs were released.

Ravi said firefighters were unable to access Bukit FRU, which is located behind the Penang Turf Club, because there were no hiking trails on the hill.

Ravi said the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

He said this was the first time he had come across as many as seven burning spots.

It was reported on Tuesday that three fires broke out on Bukit Bendera and Bukit Gambier.