Indonesia steps up response to massive forest fires

Indonesia steps up response to massive forest fires
Fire fighters spray water to extinguish wild fire in Tapung, Riau province, Indonesia, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. A spate of forest fires burning throughout Indonesia has prompted six provinces to declare a state of emergency as thousands of security forces have deployed to extinguish fires. (AP Photo/Rafka Majjid)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Forest fires burning throughout Indonesia have prompted six provinces to declare a state of emergency and deploy thousands of security forces.

Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said Thursday that firefighting measures went full force including aerial water drops in anticipation of worsening forest fires that each year spread health-damaging haze across much of Southeast Asia.

He says 6,000 personnel have been deployed to douse the fires that have razed more than 30,000 hectares (74,130 acres) of forest in six provinces with a combined population of more than 23 million people.

The efforts involve 17 helicopters dropping 61 million liters (16 million gallons) of water. Several fires detected on Sumatra and Borneo islands by weather satellites have also caused very poor air quality.