The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ General Directorate of Rubber (GDR) issued four-point fire prevention guidelines to rubber plantation owners, as the autumn sees the trees shedding their leaves.

In a January 30 letter titled “Measures to prevent fires in rubber plantations in autumn”, the GDR noted that every year, rubber trees shed their leaves from January to the end of February. During this period, if fires are lit to burn grass or weeds, the dry leaves can fuel the fires and make them uncontrollable. This can harm the rubber trees, warned the GDR.

To prevent possible fires, the GDP has ordered that the new measures be implemented immediately.

The owners of plantations must cut grass or weeds between the rows of trees and collect the cuttings, as well as the fallen leaves, to be burned. The fires should be lit at least 25m from one another and must not be downwind from each other.

Burning should begin in the early morning and be completed by 9am. Each fire should be closely monitored while it is alight, and care must be taken to ensure that each pile is completely extinguished once burning is completed.

“The GDR strictly prohibits burning in the afternoon, as it can cause fires which may burn into the night, making them hard to manage. Farmers should not wait until all of the leaves have fallen, as this can result in the accumulation of dry leaves – ideal tinder for small fires,” the letter added.

According to the guidelines, the burning of rubber leaves shall be done in three stages. The first stage should be done when about 30 per cent of the leaves have fallen. The second stage should take place when roughly 60 per cent of them have fallen. The final stage should happen when almost all of the leaves have left the trees.