GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

04 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes:

On 4 August 2010 the smoke plumes from fires burning in
Nijni Novgorod Region are again drifting to the East and
relieve Moscow from excessive smoke pollution. Source:
MODIS Terra scene (aquired on 4 August 2010, 500m

Intense fires continued to rage in western Russia on August 4, 2010. Burning in dry peat bogs and forests, the fires produced a dense plume of smoke that reached across hundreds of kilometers. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured this view of the fires and smoke in three consecutive overpasses on NASA’s Terra satellite. The smooth gray-brown smoke hangs over the Russian landscape, completely obscuring the ground in places. The top image provides a close view of the fires immediately southeast of Moscow, while the lower image shows the full extent of the smoke plume.

The fires along the southern edge of the smoke plume near the city of Razan, top image, are among the most intense. Outlined in red, a line of intense fires is generating a wall of smoke. The easternmost fire in the image is extreme enough that it produced a pyrocumulus cloud, a dense towering cloud formed when intense heat from a fire pushes air high into the atmosphere.

The lower image shows the full extent of the smoke plume, spanning about 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) from east to west. If the smoke were in the United States, it would extend approximately from San Francisco to Chicago. The MODIS sensor acquired the right section of the image starting at 5:55 UTC (10:55 a.m. local time, 8:55 a.m. in Moscow). The center section is from the overpass starting at 7:35 UTC (11:35 local time, 10:35 in Moscow), and the westernmost section was taken at 9:10 UTC (12:10 p.m. local time in Moscow).

Early analyses of data from the Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR), another instrument on the Terra satellite, indicates that smoke from previous days has at times reached 12 kilometers (six miles) above Earth’s surface into the stratosphere. At such heights, smoke is able to travel long distances to affect air quality far away. This may be one reason that the smoke covers such a large area. The pyrocumulus cloud and the detection of smoke in the stratosphere are good indicators that the fires are large and extremely intense.

According to news reports, 520 fires were burning in western Russia on August 4. MODIS detected far fewer. It is likely that the remaining fires were hidden from the satellite’s view by the thick smoke and scattered clouds. High temperatures and severe drought dried vegetation throughout central Russia, creating hazardous fire conditions in July.

As of August 4, 48 people had died in the fires and more than 2,000 had lost their homes throughout central Russia, said news reports. The dense smoke also created hazardous air quality over a broad region. Visibility in Moscow dropped to 20 meters (0.01 miles) on August 4, and health officials warned that everyone, including healthy people, needed to take preventative measures such as staying indoors or wearing a mask outdoors, reported the Wall Street Journal. In the image, Moscow is hidden under a pall of smoke. Close to the fires, smoke poses a health risk because it contains small particles (soot) and hazardous gases that can irritate the eyes and respiratory system. Smoke also contains chemicals that lead to ozone production farther away from the fires.

The large image provides the full scene shown in the lower image at the sensor’s highest resolution (as shown in the top image)

GFMC analysis (comment inserted ex-post on this web page on 18 August 2010): By 16 August 2010 it has been noted that a wrong algorithm for the calculation of area burned had been applied since the beginning of 2009.The corrected data for the whole fire season are published starting 18 August 2010. A 2010 summary will be published at the end of the fire season.

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 (04 August 2010 09:00 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)

3 August, 2010
According to the wildfire situation report of 3 August 2010 a total of
528 fires affected 28,092 ha forested and 1,869 ha non-forested lands.
148 fires of them were reported as new fires.

Through all of Russia 17,497 people, 59 aircraft, 2,809 bulldozers, tractors and engines have
been involved in fire fighting.

Since the beginning of the 2010 fire season a total of 24,251 fires
affected 568,430 ha forested and 205,703 ha non-forested lands of the Forest Fund of Russia.

Most fires have been reported in the following regions:
Sverdlovsk region – 65
Kirovsk region – 39
Moscow region – 28
Arkhangelsk region – 44
Nizhniy Novgorod region – 41
Komi republic – 92
Vladimir region – 20

There are large fires in following regions:
Voronezh region – 9 fires,burning area 5,272 ha forested lands.
Vladivir region – 19 fires,burning area 16,732 ha forested lands.
Nizhniy Novgorod region – 32 fires,burning area 96,749 ha forested lands and 27,845 ha non-forested lands.
Ryazan region – 13 fires,burning area 28,246 ha forested lands and 5,403 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)

click to enlarge (29 KB)

Map legend

Administrative boundaries

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  04 August 2010 (selection):

click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB) click to enlarge (40-50 KB)

Chelyabinsk Region Omsk Region Komi Republic

More maps of other regions are available on request:

News from the media:

Russian President holds Security Council meeting

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev broke his holiday in Sochi and returned to Moscow to hold Security Council meeting due to bushfires in the country. Medvedev urged the government to draw list of high risk facilities, APA reports quoting Interfax news agency.

Emergency Minister of Russia Sergei Shoigu said that different governmental agencies have drawn the list of potential high risk facilities and determined 2400 such facilities, but the Ministry of Finance approved only 440 articles of the list. Medvedev said that the list should be reviewed again and approved by the government. “Do you think the Ministry of Finance is responsible for security?!” said Medvedev.

EMERCOM: 813 wildfires are registered in Russia. 48 fatalities (4 August 2010)

EMERCOM of Russia informs that 813 wildfires are registered in Russian Federation including 24 peat fires.

a) forest fires

During twenty-four hours 403 wildfires have been discovered and 293 of them were suppressed. 520 wildfires are still active on area 188 524 hectares in comparison with previous 24 hours having 529 wildfires on area 17 2371 hectares. 310 wildfires are contained on area 78 819 hectares. 53 large wildfires are active on area 126 355 ha.

During 24 hours no constructions have been destroyed as EMERCOM informs. During stripping operations in earlier burned out houses 8 dead persons have been found (3 in Moscow Oblast, 2 in Nixny Novgorod, 1 in Voronez Oblast, 1 in Ryazan Oblast, 1 in Ivanovo Oblast).

In total there were 48 fatalities.

b) peat fires

During 24 hours 13 peat fires started, 24 peat fires are still active (8 in Sverdlovsk Oblast, 1 in Nizny Novgorod Oblast,  13 in Moscow Oblast, 1 in Vologda Oblast, 1 in Ivanovo Oblast).

From the beginning of 2010 fire season 23 964 wildfires started on total area 667 459.8 ha in Russian Federation including 895 peat fires on area 1173.44 ha.

170 605 persons, 26 929 machineries including 40 aircrafts were involved in wildfires suppression. 143 449 persons, 22 768 machineries, including 21 aircraft were involved from EMERCOM of Russia in forest fire fighting.

Source: (04 August 2010)

МЧС: На территории России зарегистрировано 813 очагов природных пожаров. Погибло 48 человек

МЧС России сообщает о том, что на территории Российской Федерации зарегистрировано 813 очагов природных пожаров, в том числе 24 – торфяных.

а) лесные пожары

В течение суток возникло 403 очага. Потушено 293 очага. Продолжают действовать 520 очагов на общей площади 188 524,8 га (за предыдущие сутки – 529 очагов на площади 172 371,6 га). Из них локализовано 310 очагов на общей площади 78 819,5 га. Действует 53 крупных очага пожаров на площади 126 355 га.

За сутки сгоревших домов не было, сообщает МЧС России. При разборе ранее сгоревших домов обнаружены тела 8 погибших (3- Московская область, 2 – Нижегородская область, 1 – Воронежская область, 1- Рязанская область, 1 – Ивановская область).

Всего погибли 48 человек.

б) торфяные пожары

В течение суток возникло 13 очагов. Продолжают действовать 24 очага (8 очагов – Свердловская область, один очаг – Нижегородская область, один очаг – Вологодская область, 13 очагов – Московская область, один очаг – Ивановская область).

Всего с начала пожароопасного периода 2010 г. на территории Российской Федерации возникло 23964 очага природных пожаров на общей площади 667 459,8 га, в том числе 895 очагов торфяных пожаров на общей площади 1173,44 га.

Для тушения лесных пожаров привлекалось 170 605 человек и 26 929 единиц техники, из них 40 воздушных судов, в том числе от МЧС России – 143 449 человек, 22 768 единиц техники, из них 21 воздушное судно.

Source: (04 August 2010)

Death Toll Rises as Russian Fires Rage

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev cut short his vacation and headed back to Moscow as Russian forest and peat fires burned out of control Wednesday and the death toll rose to 48.

Fires continued to rage in much of the country’s European territory, with seven Russian regions declaring a state of emergency.

Forest fires threatened at least five towns in the hard-hit Nizhny Novgorod region—where entire villages have been burned to the ground and at least 20 people have been killed.

Authorities removed radioactive materials from a top-secret nuclear facility in the town of Sarov, even though the town’s administration said this morning that a fire at its edges had been brought under control.

President Medvedev returned to Moscow from the Black Sea city of Sochi in order to meet with the National Security Council and find a way to deal with the fires, state news agency RIA Novosti said.

Soon after his arrival, Mr. Medvedev fired a string of military officers and warned Russia’s two top naval commanders for allowing the fires to reach a military base last week.

“If something like this happens again … I will take exactly the same actions, without any pity,” Mr. Medvedev said.

More than 155,000 personnel have been mobilized to fight the fires, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a meeting with Mr. Medvedev on Tuesday.

However, the government has come under rare public criticism for being slow and ill-equipped to fight the fires, which have destroyed some 2,000 homes and left as many as 4,000 homeless, according to state estimates. In particular, critics have pointed to changes in the country’s Forest Code that centralized the firefighting system and cut forest service employees.

More than 403 new forest fires sprang up over the past 24 hours, while 293 have been extinguished, the emergency ministry said. In total, 520 fires are blazing across Russia, over a total area of 188,525 hectares (465,000 acres), up from 172,372 hectares the previous day.

Close to 650,000 hectares have been burned since the fires started, the ministry said.

The record heat wave that sparked the fires—as well as Russia’s worst drought in at least three decades—shows no sign of letting up: Scorching heat will continue until at least Aug. 12, with temperatures in some parts of the country as high as 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the state weather service.

After the hottest July on record, temperatures in Moscow—with its 10.5 million residents—and the surrounding areas are expected to reach as high as 39 degrees Celsius Wednesday, despite sporadic thunderstorms and hailstorms around the region, the weather service said.

Levels of contaminants in the air early Wednesday have “passed a critical barrier, where even healthy people must take protective measures,” Mosekomonitoring, a state institute that monitors the environment, said on its website.

Smoke blanketed towns in parts of the Moscow region, where visibility fell to as low as 20 meters (66 feet) Wednesday morning.

In Moscow, calls for ambulances rose by 15% since the heat began, a top doctor said on Tuesday. Smoked seeped into the city’s metro, where a thin haze hung over some platforms, and the smell of smoke penetrated stores and offices. Smog cut the visibility in the city center to only several hundred meters, with the towers of the Kremlin veiled by a grayish film.

Moscow smoke pollution worst in eight years

Air quality levels in Moscow tumbled to an eight-year low on Wednesday as the Russian capital was blanketed in thick smoke from forest and peat fires, said Moscow’s state agency for monitoring air pollution.

A heatwave has engulfed central parts of European Russia since mid June, pushing temperatures to the highest levels since records began and sparking forest fires that have killed at least 48 people.

“Air pollution surged four to ten times (above the maximum safe levels) in the early morning hours, which is an new high,” Elena Lezina, an expert at the Moscow state agency that monitors air pollution, told Reuters.

The concentration of carbon monoxide in Moscow soared to about 5.7 times safe levels at night and the concentration of suspended particles tripled, she said.

Moscow has been shrouded in the worst smoke since 2002 when peat fires around the capital sent pollution levels soaring.

Putin arrives in Voronezh region for meeting on wildfires aftermath

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived in Voronezh on Wednesday to hold a conference on the elimination of the aftermath of wildfires.

The Voronezh region became on of the areas that were seriously hit by the disaster. President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree declaring a state of emergency over fires raging in seven regions. A state of emergency was declared in the Republic of Mary El, Mordovia, Vladimir, Voronezh, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, and Ryazan regions. The president ordered the Emergencies Ministry, the Defence Ministry and other troops to help fight the fires.

Putin is expected to visit a centre where about 170 people have been accommodated. The prime minister will also attend a new city hospital that firefighters succeeded in saving from burning.

The Emergency Situations Ministry’s aviation helped extinguish creeping fires in the Voronezh region’s forests. The emergencies regional department told Itar-Tass that the Il-26 planes and the Mi-8 helicopters, as well as the Ka-82 copters, made 145 flights and carried over 3.2 tonnes of water to extinguish wildfires.

Firefighters managed to put out fires in 76 settlements where over 35,000 people live. No casualties have been reported.

Last weekend, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke about the difficult situation caused by wild fires in many Russian regions.

He said, “The situation is serious in the Vladimir and Moscow regions, that were struck by peat fires. Big resources are used in the Moscow region. We succeeded in avoiding the consequences that affected the Moscow region in 2002 due the efforts by the whole region.”

According to the minister, the situation in Karelia is very difficult because crown fires can occur. “Such situation may emerge in all 17 Russian regions,” Shoigu said.

He recalled that crown fires had started ravaging the Nizhny Novgorod region. The flame speed was about 100 metres a minute. “In six hours the fire ravaged 86,000 hectares of the area. The fire uprooted some trees. The flame crossed the lake as a pool,” the minister said.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry’s aviation is working permanently in the area of the nuclear centre of Sarov in order to protect it from fires, Shoigu said.

“Four aircraft are working permanently in the area of the nuclear centre of Sarov to protect them from fires and prevent crown fires there,” the minister told journalists.

The Emergencies Ministry will acquire additional seven fire-fighting planes and helicopters, he said.

“I can’t say we miss planes. But we’d like to have them more,” Shoigu told journalists on Saturday. To this end, he said, “Recently the Russian government has decided to acquire seven aircraft – two planes and five helicopters.

“Next week we’ll ask for additional funding to buy two Be-200 amphibious aircraft and five Mi-26 helicopters. Each can carry 15,000 tonnes of water at one haul,” the minister said.

In general, the Emergencies Ministry’s planes used 2.5 tonnes of water to extinguish fires, Shoigu said.

According to the minister, “all crews work hard. Six points are deployed to control air traffic. In all dangerous areas several alert groups operate because the weather complicates the situation in certain regions.” He added that the flaws seriously changed the situation.

“We realize the situation and work day and night,” Shoigu said.

According to the Emergency Situations Ministry, 1,170 houses have burnt down leaving 2,187 people homeless in the Central and Volga Federal Districts since the beginning of the hot spell. The worst-hit areas are the Voronezh, Ryazan, and Moscow regions. Fires claimed at least 21 lives. The death toll includes two firefighters.

Vladimir Putin visited the Vyksun district, which suffered the heaviest damage. He inspected the conditions of the accommodation of the evacuated people and talked with residents of the once large village Verkhnyaya Vereya. The 341-house village burnt to ashes on Thursday, July 29.

The prime minister promised that the village would be rebuilt by the beginning of winter, and that he would personally supervise the construction of new housing.

“All the houses will have been built by winter. I promise you: the village will be rebuilt,” Putin told the homeless fire victims, adding that money would be allocated for housing and infrastructure.

Officials: Russian wildfires death toll hits 48

Officials say the death toll from weeks of wildfires that have wiped out forests and villages in western Russia has reached 48.

The Emergency Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that 403 new fires were spotted in the last 24 hours, but 293 were extinguished.

Russia is suffering its worst heat wave since records began, pushing forest and bog fires across stretches of central and western regions. Tens of thousands of troops and volunteers are helping some 10,000 firefighters battle blazes in more than a dozen western Russian provinces, seven of which are under a state of emergency.

Winds have sent a blanket of smog from peat bog fires over Moscow. The haze, which contains harmful carbon monoxide and other gases, reached the subway system Wednesday.

Forest fire destroyed 13 hangars at base near Moscow

Russia’s beleaguered defense ministry had initially denied reports of the blaze. It described a story that 200 planes had been destroyed as “fiction” and said the base concerned did not even exist.

The Prosecutor-General’s statement was the first official confirmation of the fire at the base near Kolonna, 100 km (60 miles) southeast of Moscow. It gave few details of the damage and a spokesman declined further comment.

“The base quarters, the accountant’s office, a club, two garages, 13 hangars with aviation equipment of various kinds and 17 parking areas with vehicles located there were destroyed by a fire,” the prosecutor general’s main investigative unit said in a statement.

The tabloid-style website, renowned for its hard-hitting stories, said around 200 planes and helicopters, worth up to 20 billion rubles, were lost in the blaze. It broadcast a video clip showing charred equipment and ash.

Russia’s navy has been plagued by a series of disasters since the collapse of the Soviet Union, including the Kursk submarine disaster in 2000 in which 118 sailors died.

More than 40 people have died and about 2,000 families have lost their homes to forest blazes this summer stoked by Russia’s worst heatwave in decades. Russia’s leaders have declared a state of emergency in seven provinces to contain the fires.

Forest fire problems in Russia have system character

Paper originally published on the by Natalie Serova “Why Russia in flames? ‘Fire storm’ lies on conscience of Forest Code developers”:

Life in a number of European part of Russia regions already turned in the hell. Forests and peat lands are burning, flames destroy settlements and approach to cities Ryazan, Voronez, Arzamas. Numbers of burned out houses, victims and fatalities grow each hour. President holds meetings, Prime Minister meets with people promising indemnities many times exceeding money according to the law. Governors and heads of municipalities awaken and army involved in forest fire control. Emergencies overwhelm the country.

But it is too late. Under temperatures near +40°C (over 100 Fahrenheit) trees transformed into snags and winds move flames with the speed 100 meters per second. Containment of fires even is not mentioned. Technical resources and manpower are not enough. In some settlements people are forced to control fire by their own. All of this give rise to question that can’t be declined by indemnities. Moreover, with this kind of disaster common help could destroy the budget. Meanwhile there is a great deal of talk about money sent by federal authorities will be cut up in regions. This is usual.

But here is the main question how all of this was allowed? In the beginning of July when peat started smolder, forests burned not so heavily, Deputy Head of Rosleskhoz, Chikalyuk V.F., and Head of Rosleskhoz Forest Protection Department, Ermolenko A.A., organized press conference on issue “Why forests of Russia are burning?” Answer is on the surface. Because an integrated system of forest fires monitoring and control system is absent. Cost of the issue estimated by specialists is between 20 and 30 billion rubles. This is huge money but depending with what to compare. According to Chikalyuk the annual loss from forest fires equals 30-40 billion rubles in average i.e. for development of an effective integrated forest fire protection system in all country it is necessary less funds than whole country annual loss from forest fires in relatively calm years. How much financial losses will be current disaster Rosleskhoz administration so far didn’t calculate. But this is already known that losses will be tens times more.

So sad arithmetic. But it is not worthwhile to consolidate all into pure economical calculations because current situation is not only economy but politics. It was political decision to spread responsibility in forest protection and use between federal, regional and municipal authorities. And it was made so tangled and indistinct that even very qualified lawyers often are not able to answer who namely is responsible for one or another areas of forest protection and use. These new regulations were built in Forest Code that was approved with scandals in 2006 and came into force on 1 January 2007. Then several times it was made amendments in it but they didn’t change the main point. At first sight new system of responsibility looks like fairly well composed and convincingly. In Chapter “General conditions of forest fire protection” it is stated that “forests be liable to fire protection, pollution” etc. (Article 52. paragraph 1). Further, it is specified that “forest protection carried out by state authorities, local authorities in limits of their powers, appointed in accordance with articles 81-84 of the present Code (article 52, paragraph 2). Then real circus starts. In Article 81 it is stated that federal authorities “fix the rules” of forest use in wood processing, forest protection, reproduction and regulate all other activities.

Russian Federation regions authorized by more authorities that are specific “ownership, use, disposal of forest sites”, “establishment of payment rates for unit of forest resources and payment rates for unit of forested area” and else many points describing for what regional authorities establish payment (Article 82). The same time RF resign its commission to regions authorities “development and confirmation of forest plans, forestry regulations and also implementation of state examination of forest use projects” and “organization of forest use and forest protection including fire control” (Art. 83).

Local authorities authorized on “ownership, use, disposal of forest sites” (Art. 84. paragraph 1). Besides, “local authorities can be authorized by independent powers in forest use, protection, reproduction” (Art. 84. Paragraph 2). So actually it is impossible to learn who is responsible for what. This system caused many scandals connected with forest use and experts pointed out that system was developed for forest resources use. By the way, this is an example of corruption snapped into action in time of preparation and adoption of the law. And to find anti corruption component of the law it is not necessary develop special anti corruption administrations and adopt corruption fight programs, moreover, names of all interested persons are known behind-the-scenes.

As far as the conversation lead towards the use of forest resources picture reminded situation after adoption of Housing Code where protection of owners’ rights was out of common sense. In similar cases you could go to law, change boundaries of sites for cutting etc. But fire doesn’t know regions borders and municipal formations. It moves over the tops of trees even jumps over water reservoirs. And this is not new after events of last days. Exactly therefore until recently integrated system of leskhozes (forest management enterprises) had deals with forest protection both illegal use and fires. But the system was abolished after coming Forest Code into force.

It is clear that it was made to solve forest resources use issues in the offices of regional, federal or municipal authorities. This is called “Russian market”. At the same time the system of forest fires detection and possibilities to control forest fires in country scale was destroyed. Moreover, even in that cases when federal center could help in time regional leaders prefer to pass over the problems to keep another’s away from the estate. For example, it is known that Governor of Nizny Novgorod Oblast rejected the help offered by Russian Government and after several days fire situation was out of control and Putin came to region immediately. And all of this because there is absent Ministry responsible for forest fire protection and fire control on wildlands. EMERCOM (Ministry of emergency situations) deals this mainly in populated areas and has separate department, State fire inspectorate. Protection of forests and peat lands are the responsibilities of locals. The results are obvious.

It is clear that sooner or later rains will come, then winter and fire will come to the end. But it is not expected that after effect will not be stopped on the authorities of middle rank. In a meeting in Nizny Novgorod Putin offered to the heads of local municipalities to be retired as persons who was not able to cope with disaster. And this was “the direction of main attack”.  Governor of Moscow Oblast Gromov repeats after him and made heads of local municipalities’ personal responsibility for forest protection and fire control. Of course, negligent heads should be kicked out. But it is not enough. Today it is known that problem has the system character. And the roots should be looked for 10 years reforms, in Forest Code and among the persons who pushed its adoption”.

Source:, 2 August 2010

Проблема лесных пожаров носит в России системный характер

Сайт опубликовал статью “Почему горит Россия. “Огненный шторм” лежит на совести разработчиков Лесного кодекса”, автор Наталья Серова.

“Жизнь в ряде регионов европейской части России уже превратилась в ад. Горят торфяники и леса, огонь уничтожает поселки и уже подбирается к городам: Рязани, Воронежу, Арзамасу. Число сгоревших домов, пострадавших и погибших людей растет с каждым часом. Президент проводит совещания, премьер общается с народом, обещая компенсации, в разы превосходящие положенные по закону. Проснулись губернаторы и главы муниципальных образований, к тушению пожаров подключена армия. Страну захлестывает чрезвычайщина.

Но поздно: при температуре под сорок градусов деревья превратились в сухостой, а ветер разносит огонь со скоростью 100 метров в секунду. О том, чтобы локализовать очаги возгорания, речь уже не идет. Технических и человеческих ресурсов не хватает. В некоторых населенных пунктах люди вынуждены бороться с огнем своими силами. Все это порождает вопросы, которые не снять никакими компенсациями, тем более, что при таких масштабах бедствия элементарная помощь может разорить бюджет. К тому же уже начинаются разговоры о том, что выделенные федеральной властью деньги распилят на местах. Это все привычно.

Но есть главный вопрос: как допустили подобное? В начале июля, когда торф уже тлел, леса горели, но не так сильно, заместитель руководителя Рослесхоза В.Ф. Чикалюка и начальник управления охраны и защиты лесов Рослесхоза А.А. Ермоленко провели пресс-конференцию на тему “Почему горят леса России?”. Ответ лежит на поверхности. Потому что нет единой системы мониторинга и тушения лесных пожаров. Цена вопроса, по оценкам специалистов, колеблется в пределах 20-30 млрд рублей. Деньги немалые, но это смотря с чем сравнивать. По словам Чикалюка, ежегодный ущерб от лесных пожаров в среднем составляет около 30-40 миллиардов рублей. Т.е. на создание эффективной, единой в масштабах страны системы охраны лесов нужно меньше средств, чем страна теряла ежегодно в сравнительно спокойные годы. Какими финансовыми потерями обернется нынешнее бедствие, руководство Рослесхоза пока не подсчитало, но уже понятно, что ущерб будет в десятки раз больше.

Такая невеселая арифметика. Но не стоит сводить все к чисто экономическим выкладкам, потому что нынешняя ситуация – это не только экономика, но и политика. Это было политическое решение – размазать ответственность за охрану и использование лесов между федеральными, региональными и муниципальными органами. И сделать это так запутанно и невнятно, что даже квалифицированные юристы часто не в состоянии ответить, кто именно отвечает за то или иное направление использования или охраны лесов. Эти новые правила были заложены в Лесном кодексе, который со скандалами принимался в 2006 году и вступил в действие с 1 января 2007 года. Потом в него несколько раз вносились поправки, но сути они не изменили. На первый взгляд новая система ответственности выглядит достаточно стройно и убедительно. В разделе “Общие положения об охране и о защите лесов” сказано, что “леса подлежат охране от пожаров, от загрязнения” и пр. (ст. 52. п.1). Далее уточняется, что “охрана и защита лесов осуществляются органами государственной власти, органами местного самоуправления в пределах их полномочий, определенных в соответствии со статьями 81-84 настоящего Кодекса” (ст. 52. п. 2). А дальше начинается настоящий цирк. В статье 81 сказано, что Федеральные органы “устанавливают правила” использования лесов для переработки древесины, охраны, защиты, воспроизводства лесов и регламентируют все прочую деятельность.

Субъекты РФ наделены более конкретными полномочиями: “владение, пользование, распоряжение лесными участками”, “установление ставок платы за единицу объема лесных ресурсов и ставок платы за единицу площади лесного участка” и еще много пунктов, описывающих, за что устанавливают плату региональные органы (ст. 82). В то же время, органам государственной власти субъектов РФ передаются полномочия на “разработку и утверждение лесных планов субъектов РФ, лесохозяйственных регламентов, а также проведение государственной экспертизы проектов освоения лесов” и “организация использования лесов, их охраны (в том числе тушения лесных пожаров)” (ст. 83).

Что касается органов местного самоуправления, то они наделены полномочиями на “владение, пользование, распоряжение такими лесными участками” (ст. 84. п. 1). Кроме того, “органы местного самоуправления могут наделяться отдельными государственными полномочиями в области использования, охраны, защиты, воспроизводства лесов” (ст. 84 п. 2). Т.е. по факту вообще невозможно понять, кто за что отвечает. Система эта породила немало скандалов, связанных с использованием леса, и, как отмечают эксперты, именно под задачи использования лесных ресурсов она и создавалась. А это, между прочим, пример коррупции, сработавшей еще на стадии подготовки и принятия закона, и чтобы обнаружить коррупционную составляющую нет нужды создавать специальные антикоррупционные органы и принимать программу борьбы с коррупцией, тем более, что имена заинтересованных лиц охотно склоняются в кулуарах.

Пока речь шла об использовании лесных ресурсов, картина напоминала ситуацию, сложившуюся после принятия Жилищного кодекса, в котором защита права собственника выходила за пределы здравого смысла. В подобных случаях можно судиться, менять границы отданных под вырубку участков и пр. Но огонь не знает границ регионов и муниципальных образований. Он двигается по верхушкам деревьев и даже перелетает через водоемы. И это не является новостью последних дней. Именно поэтому до недавнего времени охраной лесов как от незаконного использования, так и от пожаров занималась единая система лесхозов. Но она была упразднена с ведением в действие нового Лесного кодекса.

Понятно, что это было сделано для того, чтобы вопросы использования лесных ресурсов можно было решать в кабинетах региональных, федеральных или муниципальных руководителей. Это называется “рынок по-русски”. Но одновременно была уничтожена система отслеживания очагов пожаров и возможность комплексной борьбы с огнем в масштабах страны. При этом даже в тех случаях, когда федеральный центр мог бы оказать своевременную помощь, региональные руководители предпочитают умалчивать о проблемах, чтобы не пускать в свою вотчину чужих. Известно, например, что губернатор Нижегородской области отказался от помощи, предложенной правительством, а через несколько дней ситуация вообще вышла из-под контроля, и в регион примчался Путин. И все это потому, что в стране нет ведомства, отвечающего за профилактику и тушение пожаров на природных территориях. МЧС делает это применительно к населенным пунктам, там есть отдельный департамент, Государственный противопожарный надзор (ГПН). А за лес и торфяники отвечают на местах. И результат налицо.

Понятно, что рано или поздно начнутся дожди, наступит зима, и пожары прекратятся. Но рассчитывать на то, что неизбежный разбор полетов не ограничится зачисткой руководителей среднего звена, не приходится. Проводя совещания в Нижегородской области, Путин предложил подавать в отставку не справившимся со стихийным бедствием главам муниципалитетов, и этим определил направление “главного удара”. Ему уже вторит губернатор Московской области Громов, возложивший персональную ответственность за тушение и предотвращение лесных пожаров на глав муниципалитетов. Разумеется, нерадивых руководителей нужно гнать. Но этого мало. Сегодня уже понятно, что проблема носит системный характер, и корни ее нужно искать в реформах последнего десятилетия, в Лесном кодексе и среди тех, кто продавливал его принятие.”

Wildfire season: Authorities want better organization, stronger political will

It has grown into a bad tradition for Russian authorities to panic at winter cold and summer heatwave alike. Both weather extremes provoke natural disasters: winters destroy water supply systems and leave buildings and whole neighborhoods to freeze without heating, while summers unfailingly bring peat bog fires.

This summer Russia has been hit by a record heatwave, and wildfires are raging worse than ever, destroying homes and causing deaths and injuries. The government is taking emergency relief actions; First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov even proposed closing off the forests to prevent more ignition sources.

However, analysts believe that some necessary precautions and advance preparations could have reduced the dramatic impact to a large extent.

Firefighting reports sound more like news from the combat zone. Wildfires have spread across the country engulfing 128,000 hectares of land, killing 34 and leaving 2,210 people homeless, according to a recent Emergencies Ministry report. Two federal ministries – the Emergencies Ministry and the Defense Ministry – are responsible for fighting the wildfires, and their resources include 180 emergencies experts and 4,000 servicemen, 200 special vehicles, and 14 airplanes and helicopters.

A special pipeline-laying squadron of the Moscow Military District has laid over 7 km of pipes out of the 20 km planned to supply water for firefighting in the Yegoryevsk and Shatura Districts. Volunteers join professionals in the relief efforts. Residents of local villages do not wait for the fire to come to their houses: They set up fire-fighting brigades, monitor and suppress new ignition sources with fire swatters.

But the real tragedy is that much of the trouble could have been avoided, including casualties and emergency efforts. First of all, the peat bogs, which are a huge fire hazard, are a human-induced problem. Before West Siberian oilfields development began, the Soviet government used peat reserves as a good commercial fuel. However, as the “oil age” began, peat-bog exploitation was abandoned. Central Russia has been suffering from peat fires every summer since then.

The most obvious solution would be to flood, or irrigate, if we use a scientific term, the peat bog areas. In fact, environment experts warn that this should be done anyway, not only to eliminate fire risks. However, the officials responsible for this have not had time to address the problem for decades. Now their negligence has been aggravated with economic problems.

The national economy is struggling with a downturn, while irrigation of vast expanses requires major investment and special equipment which Russia does not have. What’s worse, Russia does not have a workable melioration infrastructure. “All the relevant brigades and agencies were abolished long ago,” Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Water Problems, told a news conference at RIA Novosti. “It has been 20 years since we had a mobile hydro-melioration convoy,” he added.

Yet, if necessary, the bogs could be flooded gradually, starting with the most dangerous points where residential areas are under threat, and isolating them as we go along. The costs may be cut significantly, if the money is used wisely. The most crucial preventive measures will require at least 500 million rubles ($16.5 million), according to Danilov-Danilyan’s estimates. This does not seem unaffordable, especially compared with the recent cash injections to support certain companies as the economic crisis hit, or with subsidies regularly received by some of the problem regions in southern Russia.

The amount cited is only the minimum required, the environment expert admitted, which should be enough at the first stage, if no drought is expected. However, this summer’s weather forecast should have sent allocations for fire prevention up tenfold, to 5 million rubles. “This will not resolve the problem, but the amount should be spent on the most indispensable actions in this situation,” Danilov-Danilyan added.

Five million rubles does not sound like an unaffordable amount for the Russian government either. Yet, no preventive measures have been taken, and there are still no irrigation plans in place. This suggests that money is not the problem. The government seems to lack the political will and organization to deal with problems of such importance, despite their urgency.

Heat, smoke and worry cloak Moscow

As Moscow’s record heatwave began, I threw open all the screenless windows in my apartment, hoping for some breeze — but mostly what I got was visits from bugs and, briefly, an inquisitive crow.

Then, tendrils of the acrid smoke from the peat-bog fires surrounding the city wafted in, bringing nausea and dry-mouth.

The recommendation of Russia’s top doctor to hang wet sheets at the windows to block the smoke just makes the rooms more stifling. With no end in sight to the misery, another doctor’s advice may be the only one thing that brings relief — think as little as possible.

In my 11 years in Moscow, the most frequent question from friends abroad has been “Aren’t the winters tough?” Maybe so. But Russians handle winter with aplomb — fur hats, afternoons in steamy bathhouses, long evenings gulping warming vodka around the table in toasty kitchens.

The country’s not geared for summer, however.

Air-conditioning is rare, many apartments are laid out in a way that discourages air circulation, and their brick and concrete walls tend to hold heat like a pottery kiln.

Even appliances aren’t up to coping with heat: a colleague complained with amused outrage that the ice in her freezer was melting.

Usually these summer snags are little more than a brief irritation; a few days of heat, followed by cooling rains. This year is different. Moscow, a city that has beaten back huge military assaults and survived horrifying terrorist attacks, is under a quiet siege that it seems helpless to repel.

Moscow’s aggressive and autocratic mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, in the past has made headlines by claiming the ability to control the weather, seeding clouds on the city’s outskirts to ensure that rain doesn’t spoil parades and ceremonies. He can’t be a rainmaker this summer — climate scientists say there isn’t enough moisture in the air to create rain artificially.

Subway riders, generally docile even in the system’s appalling crowds, have suddenly grown restive, demanding that authorities start putting air-conditioning on the trains. Each day the rides become worse, as trains acting like giant pistons suck smoke from the outskirts’ fires into center-city stations.

The official response hasn’t brought peace of mind. The Emergencies Ministry announced it was buying more firefighting planes — Russian-made Be-200s that the ministry touts as the best in the world for the job — but they won’t be ready for years.

State-controlled television news shows plodding footage of leaders meeting with officials and telling them to work diligently. President Dmitry Medvedev this week pointedly told the country that even though he was in the resort city of Sochi, he wasn’t on vacation.

Relentless heat, thickening smoke, dubious officialdom — it’s a lot to have on one’s mind, and a prominent Russian physician warns that worrying about it all could be dangerous.

“It’s been shown that mental activity in the heat unfavorably affects the nervous system,” Igor Stupakov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Medicine’s Bakulev heart surgery center, was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.

But it’s hard not to think about it. The usual Russian strategies for escape are dachas and drinking, but neither seem attractive this summer. Dachas can be lovely, but only if the forests around them aren’t on fire. Personal experience suggests that the morning-after effects of a few drinks are significantly aggravated by a night of breathing in peat smoke.

And thinking actually can help Muscovites get through the heat, at least in the cold-comfort sense of realizing that much of the country has it worse. The city’s not in flames. Residents are trudging and griping, but not yet fleeing and weeping like thousands of people in the fire zones.

That point came home this week in the office, when I was sweating and griping after a 10-minute walk from the grocery store. A colleague who had spent the day amid fires about 150 kilometers (100 miles) outside the city came in and exclaimed:

“Moscow smells great!”

Russia’s fires: worsened by peatland drainage
The disastrous forest fires that are currently raging in Russia have led to significant fires in the drained and degraded peatlands. These occur close to Moscow and densely populated areas in Central European Russia. They are causing huge air pollution problems as well as direct risks for the people in the region.

Next to todays 520 forest fires in Russia, there are also 24 peat fires taking place; many of them around Moscow (source: Emergency Ministry August 4 2010; numbers change from day to day).
These peat areas are extremely fire prone due to drainage for peat mining in the past and abandonment since the beginning of the 1990’s. Wetlands International advocates for restoration and better management of Russia’s peatlands. This is the only effective way to prevent and minimise the fire risk.

Drainage for peat mining leads to annual fires
Until 1980, Russia was responsible for almost 90% of peat used for energy in the world, but since increase of use of oil and gas in the energy sector this has largely stopped. Many of the partly mined peatsoils were left unmanaged and drained, making them extremely vulnerable to fires.

For this reason peatland fires in Russia take place almost every year in several regions with most of this in abandoned areas. In areas where active management takes place, such fires are rare. This year the peat fires have spread wider to other regions due to the extreme drought conditions. The fires in the immediate vicinity of large cities like Moscow have increased the consciousness of the problems rapidly and the issue has now caught the attention of decision makers at all levels.

Massive CO2 emissions
Drainage of peatlands and peat fires cause large CO2 emissions annually. Even without fires, these emissions amount around 160 million tonnes carbon dioxide annually (source: Global Peatland CO2 Picture). The peat carbon, which has accumulated over thousands of years and is normally conserved under water, is suddenly exposed to the air by drainage and then rapidly turns into carbon dioxide (CO2) that is released into the atmosphere.

Urgent need for rewetting Russia’s peatlands

The current situation pushes Russia’s authorities to increase its investments in peatland rewetting for anti-fire. Peatland rewetting will not only prevent future fires, but also benefit biodiversity conservation, and make an important contribution to climate change mitigation as large CO2 emissions can be reduced.

Russia has until now invested in peatland rewetting only on a project basis. The most impressive rewetting project is in the National Park Meschera in the Vladimir province, where 2000 ha of degraded peatland is being rewetted. This activity, supported by Wetlands International since 2002 has provided essential knowledge on the scientific, practical and socio-economic aspects of peatland rewetting.

Currently Wetlands International Russia works as part of the International Climate Initiative of BMU (Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany), together with the University of Greifswald, Succow Foundation and the Institute of Forest Science of the Russian Academy of Sciences on a Decision Support System to support the Russian authorities to identify the most efficient and urgent areas for rewetting.

Peatland rewetting should be supported under the Climate Convention
Tatiana Minaeva of Wetlands International in Russia: “Due to the increasing instability of the climate the peat fires will occur more regularly. It is time to bring attention to the urgent need to rewet degraded peatlands. The Parties of the Climate Change Convention should consider that peat fires will be accelerated by climate change and these on their turn will cause large CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and accelerate climate change”.

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien