August 9, 2019
In July, Alexander Uss, governor of the vast Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, said it was simply “pointless and maybe even harmful” to attempt to fight the wildfires that cloaked his capital city in a toxic cloud of smoke.
Days later, President Vladimir Putin sent in the army and even Donald Trump took notice, offering his Russian counterpart U.S. help to battle the blazes. Governor Uss has since reversed his position, and is joining the fight against what Greenpeace Russia says are on track to be the worst Siberian forest fires on record.
Temperatures in June and July were the hottest ever charted globally, with parts of Siberia where the fires are concentrated reaching 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) above the 30-year average from 1981 to 2010. The resulting dry conditions fed fires that torched more than 7 million hectares (17 million acres) of Siberian wilderness in just two months. Since the beginning of the year, fires have consumed more than 13 million hectares—an area larger than Greece.
“I don’t remember a situation where the fires burned this long, and I’ve been in forest management since 1972,” said Pyotr Tsvetkov, who runs the forest fire lab at the Sukachev Forest Institute in Krasnoyarsk. “There aren’t many fires, but they are over a huge territory and the smoke covers hundreds of kilometers. There’s no air to breathe in Krasnoyarsk and the smoke has made it to the Urals.”
Many of the fires appear to have been started by people along the region’s logging roads, with cigarette butts the leading culprit. Critics say government inaction allowed the situation to spiral out of control, blaming chronic underfunding and a 2015 decision to set up “zones of control.” Despite their name, these were effectively areas where the government wouldn’t try to control conflagrations.
Before the military promised manpower and equipment, the state’s aerial forest protection agency was vastly outgunned. With just 3,000 firefighters and 24 aircraft, it mobilized to extinguish less than 4% of the forest fires.
Russia has now declared a state of emergency in the Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk regions—covering an area larger than India—as well as parts of two others. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered a raft of measures to revise how the country protects its forests.
The World’s Largest Forest Has Been on Fire for Months – Bloomberg
August 9, 2019 In July, Alexander Uss, governor of the vast Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, said it was simply “pointless and maybe even harmful” to attempt to fight the wildfires that cloaked his capital city in a toxic cloud of smoke. Days later, President Vladimir Putin sent in the army and even Donald Trump took… [Read More]