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Wildfires Threaten To Russia’s Pristine Taiga

ITAR-TASS, May 18, 2002


Vladivostok — Wildfires are threatening to pristine coniferous forests the Primorye region, Russian Far East.
Blazes already have destroyed more than 4,0000 hectares of forest in the region. The largest conflagration of over 1,000 hectares of forest is in the basin of the Bikin River, the regional forestry service said on Saturday.
Fires are sweeping across the undergrowth, but there is a menace of their expanding upward.
The UNESCO defines as natural heritage the forests in the Bikin area, where Russian Far Eastern ethnic minorities live – Udege, Orochi and Nanais.
The region’s king tree is cedar and its animal world is unique and complete with the rarest species.
The forest fires are rapidly expanding in the Khabarovsk region where they swept across 21,000 hectares on Friday alone. Another 53,000 hectares are ablaze on Saturday.
The regional department of natural resources said another threat to forest was dry thunderstorms that already caused about 20 new fires on Friday.
Seven new fires emerged on Sakhalin, where there have been 82 taiga conflagrations since the beginning of May.
The dry weather, with the air temperatures of 23-25 degrees centigrade, facilitates the spread of fires that went through 2,800 hectares of the taiga and adjacent areas as against 220 hectares last year.
Strenuous efforts of the regional emergency situations ministry and fire fighters have reduced twofold the area of wildfires in Siberia in the past two days.
The fire-figting operations in Siberia engaged 3,000 people, 150 units of machinery and 23 helicopters and planes, including three flying tankers BE-12 that can carry six tones of water and drop it on fires.
These planes localized the most dangerous blazes in the Irkutsk region.


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