Inventor appeals for funding to equip longhouses with firefighting system
By Jude Toyat
IN 2014, 21 cases of reported longhouse fires cost RM27 million in property loss. Currently, there are an estimated 3,376 longhouses throughout Sarawak which are out of reach of firefighting stations and mostly unequipped with firefighting equipment.
It’s a problem that spurred Dr Richard Belanda Dagang to invent an on-site firefighting system that would make use of the availability of rainwater and be easily used by the residents themselves.
An initiative of iM Sarawak, the firefighting system he came up with includes a water tank that can hold 1,200 gallons of water, a 9-horse power petrol engine, high pressure water pump (100 psi/7bar), average 310 feet of 1.5 inches canvas fire hose, controlled dividing breeching, and two diffuser nozzles.
“It is able to spray about 30 gallons of water per minute with a reach of over 50 feet and for a maximum of approximately 40 minutes,” said Dr Richard, who is also a lecturer at Swinburne University Sarawak Campus when met recently.
The firefighting system was approved by the state director of the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) and so far, he has managed to get 130 longhouses equipped but is now appealing for state grants to aid in the installation and maintenance of the longhouse fire fighting systems statewide.
He pointed out that one system is estimated to cost about RM16,000, including the high transportation cost especially to remote areas and the interior of Sarawak including Baram, Lawas and Limbang.
At the moment, five more systems will be installed in Bintulu, and five in Limbang.
“If only there is grant for me, I will go to the longhouses in the remote areas every year too, just to ensure that everything is in perfect working condition,” he said adding that the system needs proper and constant maintenance.
Between July 2014 and February 2015, 130 systems were installed in longhouses throughout Sarawak which saw Dr Richard briefing longhouse residents on how to use them after they completed installing every system.
“We also encouraged them to invite Bomba to come and give further explanation and training,” he said, as one of the problems he could foresee with the system was that the residents wouldn’t know where to put out the fire.
Besides its application, Dr Richard ensured that the residents remembered to run maintenance on the systems.
“We told them to start the engine at least once a month, especially during dry seasons just to ensure that the system is still running smoothly,” he said adding that the tuai rumahs and ketua kampongs had been such a great help for him until now.
When asked why he created the system, he answered that he had always been interested in helping people in many possible ways.
“From what I had read from local newspapers especially The Borneo Post, I found that the problems of fire fighting at longhouses are caused by three things – the distance of longhouses from fire stations, availability of fire fighting equipments, and the availability of water supplies.
“Therefore, it is crucial for the longhouses at kampongs that are very far from the fire stations to have this system to help them to combat fire. It will be a great loss if such system is not being installed as soon as possible,” he said.
“I really hope that the government will soon consider allocating a grant for the system to be put in more longhouses,” he added.