MOSCOW – September is the end of the fire season in Russia. This season was relatively quiet. About 20,000 fires, which covered over 400,000 hectares, were recorded in 2004. In comparison, over the last decade there were an average of 34,000 forest fires covering up to 2,000,000 hectares a year.?? However, there is no precise statistical data on forest fires in Russia yet. “Fires are not recorded at all in a number of northern areas in Siberia and the Far East, as there is no appropriate infrastructure there,” said Georgy Korovin, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Center for Environment and Forest Productivity and a member of the Academy of Natural Siences. Forest fires could be recorded by satellites but there are discrepancies between data from satellites and information from the ground, he said. Thankfully, this year’s relatively light fire season was largely because of the rather cold and rainy summer. However, members of the fire protection service do not want the weather alone to determine the scale of forest fires but also their own efficient efforts. However, today their efforts cannot be qualified as such. Therefore, the Concept of Protecting Forests against Fires has been developed to improve their performance. According to Albert Kasparov, chief of the Federal Forestry Agency’s preservation and protection department, the Natural Resources Ministry is expected to submit the document for the government’s consideration in the near future. The concept reflects the key areas of the Russian forest firefighting services’ development and new approaches to extinguishing fires. “We have determined where fires should be extinguished and where they should not,” said Mr. Kasparov. “Natural fire cycles have existed since creation. Fire is not always harmful for forests,” said Mr. Korovin. “Fire burns away old grass and dead wood and thereby helps improve animal habitats because disease foci and infestants have been eliminated. Fires are extremely important for some ecosystems. Cones of some kinds of pine trees open only during a fire, for example.” Mr. Korovin said it was a mistake in the past to put out all fires without exception. Putting out uncontrollable fires is the most wasteful way of spending funds allocated for forest preservation purposes, said Mr. Korovin. It would be more appropriate to allocate money to improve fire warning systems, purchase new equipment, and update the aircraft fleets. The new concept gives Russian forest management organizations precisely this task.