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For many of us, fighting fires for a living would be exciting enough. But when Boy Sastra first saw RAPP’s fleet of airboats, he knew he needed more.

"The first time I saw the airboat, I knew that was what I wanted to do," said the 27-year-old, who has been employed as a firefighter for the APRIL subsidiary in Pangkalan Kerinci, Riau, since 2010.

Together with seven team members, Boy operates the three airboats which are ideally suited to traversing the swamp-like waters averaging just 30cm in depth, too shallow for a propeller-driven boat. RAPP’s firefighters also use cars, trucks and helicopters to reach fires wherever they occur.

The team help extinguish fires on concession land as well is neighboring communities, and also help prevent blazes before they occur by involvement in programs such as the Fire Free Village Program, which offers training, equipment and economic incentives to villages which eliminate burning.

During the dry season, when the risk of fire is highest, it can be hard work. Boy recalls the time he was sent to tackle forest fires in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.

“I had six months on duty and did not return home because of the firefighting in the long dry season. Sleeping on the ground and under the stars is common.” 

Boy’s wife certainly knew what to expect before she married him. While she was busy preparing for their wedding, Boy was busy tackling the major forest fires that occurred in 2015. Although he wanted to remain at his post, he eventually agreed to return home just 48 hours before the big day.

“Fortunately my family are very understanding and support my job,” he said.

APRIL and RAPP invest heavily in fire prevention. All suppliers must commit to a no-burn policy, and fire teams at 23 locations conduct daily monitoring to spot problems before they occur.

To date the company has invested more than US$6 million in fire equipment, and spends US$2 million a year on an operational team of 260 trained firefighters and 700 Rapid Response Team members.

 

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