GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires  in the Russian Federation  

10 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes:

will be available at 14:00

Overview map showing large fire locations detected over the last 10 days:

click here to enlarge (561 KB)


Latest maps maps showing fire activities of  08 August 2010 (selection):

According to the latest satellite-derived analysis provided by the Sukachev Institute for Forest (Krasnoyarsk) the total area burned per Region by 09 August:

  • Moscow Region: 72 995 ha

  • Vladimir Region: 70 121 ha

  • Nizhni Novgorod Region: 235 815 ha

click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB) Moscow Region Vladimir Region click to enlarge (40-50 KB)     click to enlarge (40-50 KB)     Nizhni Novgorod Region

More maps of other regions are available on request: 

GFMC analysis: According to the latest satellite-derived analysis provided by the Sukachev Institute for Forest (Krasnoyarsk) the total area burned by 09 August in the Russian Federation is:

14 837 804 

 hectares (ha). 

Note: The area burned includes all vegetation types (forest and non-forested land on the whole territory of the Russian Federation). For current fire statistics on forest lands of the Federal Russian Forest Fund compiled by Avialesookhrana see report below.


Fire danger map for August for Eastern Siberia:

Source: Sukachev Institute for Forest, Krasnoyarsk


Avialesookhrana from the National Forest Fire Centre of Russia provides up-to-date NOAA images for the whole of the Russian Federation and neighbour territories. The Space Monitoring Information Support Laboratory provides extensive links to sites with satellite imagery for the Russian Federation, meteorological information as well as fire related images are accessible.

The NOAA AVHRR satellite image composite shows fire activities in the Russian Federation.

click to enlarge (360 KB)

Latest (10 August 2010 03:00 GMT) NOAA 12&14 AVHRR composite
The red squares indicate regions of active fires (MODIS Detection). For details the GFMC readers are encouraged to use the hyperlinks provided by Avialesookhrana, the Aerial Forest Fire Protection Service of the Federal Forest service of Russia. 
(Source: Avialesookhrana cloudiness maps)


Wildfire  situation report of  the Aerial Forest Fire Center of Russia (Avialesookhrana)

7 August, 2010
According  to  the wildfire situation report of 7 August 2010 a total of
560  fires affected 21,933 ha forested and  953 ha non-forested lands.
96 fires of them were reported as new fires.

Through all of Russia 17,796 people, 43 aircraft, 3,078 bulldozers, tractors and engines have
been involved in fire fighting.

Since  the  beginning  of  the 2010 fire season a total of 25,513 fires
affected 706,775 ha forested and 221,389 ha non-forested lands of the Forest Fund of Russia.

Most fires have been reported in the following regions:
Sverdlovsk region – 52
Kirovsk region – 50
Moscow region – 21
Komi republic – 108
Vladimir region – 35
Nizhniy Novgorod region – 40
Arkhangelsk region – 37

There are large fires in following regions:
Ivanovo region – 5 fires,burning area 16,717 ha forested landsand and 1,415 ha non-forested lands.
Vladivir region – 34 fires,burning area 20,994 ha forested lands.
Ryazan region – 13 fires,burning area 63,570 ha forested lands and 6,620 ha non-forested lands.


Source: Aerial Forest Fire Center of Russia (Avialesookhrana)
Prepared for GFMC by Andrey Eritsov and Andrey Usachev


Eurasian Experimental Fire Weather Information System
The system has been developed by forest fire researchers from Canada, Russia and Germany is displayed on this website starting 18 July 2001. Complete information and a set of daily fire weather and fire behaviour potential maps covering Eurasia (the Baltic Region, Eastern Europe, countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Mongolia) can be accessed at:

Example of the Eurasian Experimental Fire Weather Information System:
Latest map of the Experimental Fire Weather Index (FWI) for Russia and neighbouring countries


Daily Fire Occurrence and Fire Danger Maps of the Fire Laboratory of the Sukachev Institute of Forest, Krasnoyarsk
Selected fire occurrence maps, satellite images and a forest fire danger map are prepared daily by the Russian GFMC correspondent Dr. Anatoly Sukhinin, Fire Laboratory of the Sukachev Institute of Forest, Krasnoyarsk, in collaboration with the Emergency Situation Monitoring and Forecasting Agency, Krasnoyarsk branch. The maps are produced on the base of satellite data (classification by the NOAA AVHRR). They show the fire locations (by latitude and longitude) and the area affected by fire (red signature, size in ha). The red arrow at each fire location points to the nearest populated place. The terms Oblast or Kray used in the maps are designations of administrative regions. A map showing the boundaries of administrative regions and a legend is included below.


ru_fire_legend.gif (937 Byte)

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Map legend

Administrative boundaries



News from the media:

Living From Fire to Fire
Traditionally, August is considered the most cursed month in Russia, and this month’s fires have kept this infamous tradition alive. It is only fitting that Moscow — which President Dmitry Medvedev hopes to turn into a modernized, global financial center — would be choking in toxic fumes, scaring off visitors (along with many foreign investors) and forcing some embassies to evacuate personnel.

This summer’s wildfires differ from the ones in previous years in at least two ways. First, they are much more widespread and more visible — especially in Moscow. Second, the fires have burned for several weeks now with no end in sight.

Forest fires are usually classified as natural disasters. This is true in the sense that fires have occurred as the result of an abnormally intense heat wave. But nature is not solely to blame for the extensive damage the blazes have caused or for the loss of dozens of human lives.

Although most forest fires are natural disasters, the extent of damage is largely dependent on the government’s ability to fight fires and other calamities. This is where Russia has a big problem, despite the heroic efforts of many of its firefighters. The problem is that heroic self-sacrifice is the price individuals end up having to pay for the inactivity and mistakes of others, just as it was during Soviet times.

This summer’s fires clearly demonstrated that the country as a whole was woefully unprepared for such a calamity. When villages burn in a particular region, that is the responsibility of the governor — and those in Moscow who appointed him. But who is responsible for fires that rage throughout the country?

Media coverage by state-controlled television is designed to inspire confidence among viewers that Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are in control of the situation. The goal is to depict both leaders as being vigilant, particularly when they fire officials for their negligence.

There were, however, stylistic difference between the two: Putin addressed victims at disaster sites trying to show that the state is taking care of them, while Medvedev addressed high-

ranking officials from his ornate office.

The problem, however, is that the usual form of government control with Putin and Medvedev calling all the shots does not work in a crisis. Firing officials and providing aid to fire victims might help cope with the immediate emergency, but these measures do not improve the underlying, systemic problem. The longer the fires continue, the more people will start asking themselves whether all of Medvedev’s “tough responses” were just an attempt to increase their popularity ratings.

What lessons can Russia learn from this summer’s fires and the government’s reactions to them? First, the country needs to improve techniques for putting out fires. Second, it needs to re-examine the Forest Code and whether the number of firefighters is sufficient for a country that has the world’s largest forest reserves. Third and most important, it needs to address the problem of the country’s overly centralized and highly ineffective government institutions.

Most of the public discussion has been devoted to the need for modernizing firefighting equipment and pre-treating peat bogs so that they do not burn in such huge numbers. Much less has been said about the fact that the state failed to fulfill its function as guardian and protector of the country’s woodlands with the new Forest Code that it pushed through three years ago despite the objections of many experts and representatives of heavily forested regions.

To make matters worse, regional governments have insufficient autonomy, responsibility and resources to respond adequately when fires break out without first getting approval from Moscow at every stage. Municipal administrations have even fewer opportunities to act independently, and this is particularly damaging because most of the fires are being fought at the local level. As long as the country’s management structure remains so top-heavy and “vertical,” there will be no improvement in the country’s ability to manage crises.

Putin understands that his vertical power structure is highly ineffective. If it were effective, he would not have ordered to have video cameras set up to monitor the government’s program to rebuild houses that were burned down by forest fires.

To thoroughly understand where the lapses were in fire prevention and firefighting and to learn lessons from the gross mistakes that were made, public hearings and an independent parliamentary investigation need to be carried out.

Unfortunately, Russia has shown so many times throughout its history that it is incapable of learning from its mistakes, and this summer’s fires will unlikely be an exception to the rule. If all goes according to Russian tradition, the government will attempt to sweep its negligence under the carpet, and it will forget as soon as possible about the latest fires — until the next one occurs.


Death Rate Doubles In Moscow’s Heat Crisis
Scorching heat and acrid smoke have nearly doubled death rates in Moscow, a city official said on Monday, as smog from raging forest and peat fires shrouded Russia’s capital for a third week.

Firefighters battled wildfires covering 1,740 square km (672 sq miles) — an area bigger than Greater London — in what the chief state weather forecaster said he believed to be Russia’s worst heat wave for a millennium.

“The average death rate in the city during normal times is between 360 and 380 people per day. Today, we are around 700,” Andrei Seltsovsky, Moscow’s health department chief, told a city government meeting.

Russia’s worst drought in decades has spooked world grain markets, driving wheat prices up at the fastest rate in more than 30 years and raising the specter of a food crisis.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned on Monday that the harvest could be as low as 60 million tons, lower than many analysts had expected.

Kremlin critics have blamed Putin, Russia’s paramount leader, for what they call a sluggish and ineffective government response to the fires, but opinion polls have so far shown no decline in his popularity.


Moscow’s health chief Seltsovsky broke weeks of official silence on the wider health effects of the smoke and heat, saying that ambulance dispatches were up by about a quarter to 10,000 a day.

Heat stroke was the main cause of the recent increase in deaths and problems linked to heart disease, bronchial asthma and strokes had risen.

“This is no secret,” Seltsovsky said. “Everyone thinks we’re making secrets out of it. It’s 40 degrees (Celsius, or 104 Fahrenheit) on the street. Abroad, people drown like flies and no one asks questions.”

Russian officials had announced that 52 people had been killed by fires that have ravaged forests and fields but until Monday neither federal nor Moscow authorities had announced data on deaths from the heat and pollution.

That has given rise to suspicion of a Soviet-style cover-up in the face of criticism of the government’s handling of the wildfire crisis.

Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said at a news conference that she had no information about the rise in the death rate in Moscow, but morgues and hospitals were overcrowded.

A sign in one Moscow crematorium said it was fully booked and taking no new orders.

“Today we have 80 bodies. We store them anywhere we can because the refrigerators are full,” an attendant at Hospital No. 62’s morgue, designed to hold up to 35 corpses, told Reuters.


Putin announced last week a grain export ban from August 15 to December 31, sending prices higher and hurting shares of brewers such as Carlsberg and Heineken.

Putin said on Monday that the ban on grain exports could be extended beyond the end of the year. “If someone is waiting for December 31, he is waiting in vain. A decision may be taken only after the harvesting campaign results are clear,” he told a government meeting.

“The latest crop forecast by the Agriculture Ministry is 65 million tons, but it may be 60 million tons,” he said.

Putin added that the situation was aggravated by the fact that some important regions would not be able to start the winter-sowing campaign.

The weather outlook is little changed for this week, with a slight drop in temperatures forecast for later in the week.

SovEcon, a leading agricultural analyst, said on Monday that Russia’s wheat crop might be about one third smaller than last year’s, dropping to 43 million tons from 61.7 million tons in 2009.

In neighboring Ukraine, the world’s sixth-largest wheat exporter in the 2009/10 season, analysts and officials cut crop and export forecasts.

Russia’s main sugar lobby warned on Monday that the drought may hamper this year’s sugar beet output, reducing it from the earlier expected 4 million tons to 3.2-3.5 million tons.

The downgraded beet forecast is not expected to change Russia’s import needs as it has large domestic reserves. Almost all sugar produced in Russia is consumed domestically.

Russia has begun to feel the wider economic effects of the drought and heatwave, which have prompted banks and businesses to reduce staffing and slowed activity in the service sector.

Alfa Bank, a Moscow investment bank, said it would not publish a daily research bulletin on Monday or Tuesday.

“Owing to severe weather in Moscow, there is only a limited presence at the bank,” an Alfa official said in an e-mail.


For more details on fire in the Russian Federation:


Bibliography on fire in ecosystems of boreal Eurasia:
One of the results of the first international fire science conference in the Russian Federation (1993) was the publication of a monograph on fire in boreal Eurasia, including some selected contributions on boreal North America. The literature cited in the monograph contains numerous publications which in many cases are not easily accessible. To facilitate literature search the bibliographical sources are provided by topic (chapter).
Goldammer, J.G. and V.V.Furyaev. 1996. Fire in Ecosystems of Boreal Eurasia. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 390 p.


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