Wildfires in the Core of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (ChEZ), Ukraine

Wildfires in the Core of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (ChEZ), Ukraine

30 July 2016

The Regional Eastern European Fire Monitoring Center (REEFMC) provides the following analysis of the most recent wildfire in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (ChEZ).

According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine a wildfire started on 29 July 2016 near Pripyat city, in the most contaminated core zone of the ChEZ. The fire burned in the area of the so-called “Red Forest”, which died immediately after the failure of the nuclear reactor in 1986. The area is now covered with mixture of pine and birch forests, which survived the disaster, and by succession of shrubs and grasses. The area of the wildfire was around three hectares at the time when the ChEZ fire brigades arrived on scene. Seven fire engines (ZIL) of ChEZ State Forestry Enterprise, six engines of the ChEZ Emergency Service, 45 professional fire fighters (both forestry and emergency), two aircraft AN-32P and one helicopter with helibucket (MI-8) were engaged for fire suppression. At 18:00 on 29 July 2016 the wildfire was contained and suppressed.

According to the results of the radiation survey by the “Ecocenter” the volume activity of 137Cs in the air near the fire line on 29 July 2016 at 17:00 h was 1.5×10-1 Bq / m3. This level exceeds the reference levels established by the norms “Basic reference levels , release levels and action levels on the radioactive contamination of objects exclusion zone and zone of unconditional (obligatory) resettlement” by 15 times. The equivalent dose rate at 1 m height above soil surface was 5-12 MSv/h, the density of beta particles ranged from 200 to 800ppm/cm2 x min. This high level of air contamination is related to the fact that the location of fire is characterized by high level of radioactive contamination.

Aerial view of burned forests after successful control of the wildfire. Photos: State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

Previous news about wildfires burning about wildfires burning in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), Ukraine, 17 July 2016 (published by: http://www.lesovod.org.ua/node/29754)

Fire location map derived from the NASA MODIS instrument on satellites Terra and Aqua during 15-16 July 2016. The news from http://www.lesovod.org.ua/node/29754 are summarized as follows: First reports of outbreaks of forest fires near the village Burakovka were received on 16 July 2016. Today the number of publications is much greater. Most notable will be listed further, but first, let us look at the situation from outer space without reading media. From the images it can be seen that forest vegetation is burning in immediate proximity to Pripyat on the terrain of the leftovers of the so-called Red Forest (the forest most seriously contaminated during the first days of the failure of the reactor in 1986, which was later buried) and nearby the village Burykovka. This is one of the most contaminated areas in the ChEZ. The highway on the right part of the image leads to Pripyat. The straight line on top of the image is an abandoned railroad that leads to Slavutych city via Pripyat. Vertical lines near the turn of the road to Pripyat is where the Red Forest is buried. The area affected by fires is approximately 100 hectares (ha). There are plenty of access communications from the three sides, but inside- the territory is basically impassable by fallen trees, pine underwood, and the leftovers of old forest. The area is highly contaminated.

The dynamics of the fires may be traced via time of registration of the high-temperature events (THE) by MODIS sensor:

  • Green – 16.07-16, 01:55

  • Green with red outlines- 16.07.16, 13:25

  • Orange-red – 16.07.161, 15:05

  • Crimson-red – 17.07.16, 01:40

  • Yellow-red – 17.07.16, 03:20

On 17 July 2016 the spread of the fires is to the west and north-east of ChEZ. It should be noted, that last night there was another fire outbreak along the western track, on the territory of Republic of Belarus.

Latest update regarding the forest fire in the ChEZ (17 July 2016. at 13:00 local)

As of 13:00 of July 17 smoldering of forest cover and shrubs is being observed in a separate spot on a territory of 10 ha. No danger to the objects located in the EZ is posed. 33 units of machinery and 155 people are engaged in the suppression process, among them – 28 units of machinery and 142 people are provide by State Emergency Service of Ukraine (including 1 MI-8 Helicopter with water-dropping device and 3 AN-32P Planes). There is no threat of further fire spread. Situation is contained.

From the Ukrainian media:Forest Fires in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (ChEZ)

In the ChEZ in particularly near Radioactive Waste Storage Buriakivka firefighting operations started

16 July 2016, 22:29

Individual fires burning up to 15 hectares (ha) have been reported by the press center DSNS (State Emergency Service of Ukraine). It is noted that threatened objects are located in the ChEZ. Fire rescue units and DSNS fire aviation and forestry workers of “Chernobyl Pushcha” are involved in firefighting with 20 vehicles and 81 people, including DSNS of 12 vehicles and 51 personnel representative, MI-8 helicopters with helibuckets and AN-32P fixed wing air tankers. The operations are coordinated by the Deputy Chief of DSNS in the Kiev region. The radiation background in the exclusion zone is in the normal range and averages 0.3-0.4 mSv/h (safe level of background radiation: 0.5 mSv/h):


Information on Radioactive Fires in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Ukraine) and Neighbouring Belarus and Russian Federation in 2015 (REEFMC / GFMC summaries)

Ukraine 30 April 2015:


Ukraine 29 April 2015:


Ukraine 28 April 2015:


Additional Information on Radioactive Fires in Ukraine and Neighbouring Belarus and Russian Federation

The following special GFMC website provides background materials and activities to address the problem of fire management on contaminated terrain.

This website includes also the special OSCE / GFMC / REEFMC report on Fire Suppression in Contaminated Areas, with Focus on Radioactive Terrain:

Website of the Regional Eastern European Fire Monitoring Center (REEFMC) (Kiyv, Ukraine):

VI International Fire Management Week held in Kyiv / Boyarka, Ukraine, 25-27 March 2015

Wildland Fire related news from the Media: Note: The hyperlinks on the left side of each news are password-protected (User ID and password to enter the GFMC database are available for partners of GFMC). The links on the right side (in brackets) are leading to the original news source; sometimes this news are expiring rather swiftly – a reason for the establishment of the internal GFMC database):

For more media reports see GFMC Media page: https://gfmc.online/media-highlights-on-fire-policies-and-politics.html

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