The fire that destroyed the oldest building in Saratok.

SARATOK: One of the oldest buildings here, Fort Ranee, which is about 132 years old, survived a fire on Sunday (Aug 9).

The Saratok Fire and Rescue team which acted quickly took 13 minutes to put out the blaze that threatened to destroy the historical building which had existed since 1888.

Nazry Mohamat

Local fire chief, Nazry Mohamat, described the “severe fire” engulfed the Village Heads Meeting Room on the ground floor, some 20 by 40 feet or 20 percent of the entire building.

Still, he was glad that nobody died in the fire although he was sad to witness the building on fire.

“If the government wants to restore the building, the areas to focus on should be the ceiling, windows and floors.

“Another thing to emphasise is the safety aspects of the building, especially protection from vandals,” he said.

The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Fort Ranee prior to the fire.

According to historical records, Fort Ranee was built in 1888 on Sagatok Hill, 10 years after Fort Charles was established in 1878 as an administrative and tax office.

It was originally built as a temporary building using ironwood and was the District Office until 2008.

Location of Fort Ranee which housed an internet centre.

It also began housing an internet centre in February 2014 and remained so until the fire put an end to it.

Saratok District Council deputy chairman, Councillor Mohamad Duri, described the building as a historical icon because it is quite special.

Mohamad Duri

“First, it is the oldest historical building that can still be seen by today’s generation.

“Second, it is the tallest building overlooking Sungai Krian.

“Thirdly, it served more than 120 years as a District Office which proves that its purpose was very significant not only before independence, but also after independence.

“Therefore, the incident that happened this morning (Aug 9) was very shocking to all parties. But we are grateful that it had survived,” he told Suara Sarawak today.

He hopes that after this, the government would have specific plans to preserve and conserve historic buildings and forts in Sarawak.

“All of us in Saratok are fond of this building … don’t let it go to waste. It needs to be restored because we are afraid of losing it.

“I also understand that before this, Kalaka assemblyman Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz had proposed the idea to the state museum authority, but there was no reply,” he said.

Mohamad added that most local people want the building to be preserved.

A fireman putting out the fire inside the fort.