Fires are a major threat to our plantations, our business' key asset. Fires damage forests, reducing the value and productivity of these assets, as well as creating smoke and haze. Wildfires can also have a significant environmental impact; reducing soil nutrients, impacting water quality and increasing risk of soil erosion, all of which affect sustainable plantation management. It makes commercial sense for APRIL Group to enforce a zero tolerance approach towards burning of forests.
We do not purchase wood from suppliers who engage in illegal burning. Our supply partners are required to submit relevant permits to ensure the legality of their harvested timber, and comply with our no-burn practices. If they breach any of our policies, we undertake investigations and take immediate corrective action.
Fire Prevention: Good Fire Management Starts With The Prevention Of Fires
We recognise that investment in fire prevention through education and capability building is more effective than having a world-class suppression capability. Given that the vast majority of fires are result of burning by neighbouring communities, engagement at the village level is a critical part of minimising risk; posed by fires. We cooperate with government authorities on a range of community and education-based prevention initiatives to ensure that fires are not started within our concessions and take all necessary precautions to ensure fires are prevented.
APRIL Group firmly believes in being part of the solution to forest fires and has invested significantly into fire prevention and fire suppression at an operational and community level, including:
- Education programs
- Working with local communities
- Training and resourcing village fire teams
- Forest and village signage
- Awareness regarding slash and burn techniques
- Community based incentive programmes
CASE STUDY: Village Incentive Program
In 2014, APRIL Group introduced an initiative to incentivise villagers in Sering, Pulau Muda, Teluk Meranti and Teluk Binjai to adopt no-burn policies and prevent land or forest fires within their areas. Under the program, APRIL Group acknowledges the efforts of villages that successfully prevent land and forest fire for three consecutive months. Assistance packages are awarded to villages that prevent fire or successfully extinguishing fire in less than 24 hours on a burned area of less than one hectare. Following the implementation of the programme, the number of total hectares burned in the four villages significantly reduced from 97 hectares to 15.8 hectares.
Fire Detection: Rigorous detection and early warning system
During the biannual fire season we operate regular land, air and water patrols with fire crews on standby.
Every day, fire teams monitor daily weather at 23 locations across the province and calculate a Fire Danger rating based on days since rain, amount of rainfall, humidity and fuel (vegetation) moisture.
Fire teams from the 23 estates also patrol APRIL Group concession areas, monitoring the landscape for fires as well as other unauthorised activities, like illegal logging. These fire teams are physically fit and are prepared to respond immediately to any fire within APRIL Group concession areas.
Fire Suppression: Rapid response and aggressive suppression
Fires can be difficult to control, particularly on peatland. We have developed a world-class suppression capability that includes helicopters equipped with expert fire crews, water bombing, fire trucks, airboats as well as teams on the ground that can be rapidly deployed to contain and extinguish fires when detected.
APRIL Group collaborates with government agencies in fighting fires near our concessions. In July 2014, APRIL Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding to help government combat forest fires. In support of the Riau Province Disaster Mitigation Agency, APRIL Group provides equipment such as the use of a company helicopter and water pumps, as well firefighting training for 630 volunteers across 39 Riau villages.
- More than US$6 million invested in fire equipment
- Helicopter and 2 airboats on standby for water-bombing
- Annual operating cost of core fire team of more than US$ 2 million
- Average of US$ 1-2 million spent on purchasing replacement hoses and pumps each year
- 39 Lookout towers
- 215 water pumps committed to firefighting efforts
- 700 Rapid Response Team members, including
- 260 trained fire fighters, 22 community-based fire prevention and control groups
- 39 community-based fire prevention and control groups, 630 members
- 31 Fire Alert Communities in 5 regencies in Riau Province