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Indonesia Starting Firefighting Early as Dry Season Begins

  • Associated Press

FILE - An Indonesian soldier drags a hose while fighting a peatland fire in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra province on the island of Sumatra, Sept. 30, 2015. Forest and peat land fires often pollute the region's air.

Indonesia's top security minister says authorities have begun efforts to fight forest and peat land fires that often pollute the region's air as the country's dry season begins.

Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for politics, legal and security, said Friday the government does not want to repeat mistakes made last year when a lack of prevention resulted in fires burning out of control.

Most of the fires are started deliberately to clear land for agriculture or pulp wood plantations.

The Riau provincial government declared a state of emergency on Monday after fires in at least three districts began spreading rapidly because of strong winds. More than 700 police and soldiers have been deployed to extinguish the fires.

The province was the most severely affected by forest fires last year.