GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires  in the Russian Federation  

05 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes:

On 5 August 2010 the smoke plumes from fires burning in
Razan Region are drifting to the Northeast and do not directly impact Moscow.
Source: MODIS Terra scene (acquired on 5 August 2010, 500m resolution).

This Google Earth map shows the locations of Razan and Moscow

News from the media:

UNECE: Russian Forest Fires. Interview with Johann Goldammer, Director of Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) and Leader of the UNECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Forest Fires.

Situation with natural fires on the territory of the Russian Federation according to the information received on 5th August 2010—commentary of the Head of the National Crisis Management Center EMERCOM of Russia Vladimir Stepanov

For the past day the situation on the territory of the Russian Federation especially in the Volga and Central FD remained serious. This referred to the Nizhniy Novgorod and Ryazan Regions—here additional forces were engaged to work in the area of Sarov city, as well as in the Klepikovskiy area of the Ryazan Region.

The use of new technologies in the Sarov city proved their efficiency. The measures taken helped to stabilize the situation in the above mentioned subjects of the Russian Federation. Today, the work will continue there, the group will be enlarged. For example, three robotic sets will be sent to Nizhniy Novgorod Area.

To talk about the situation in two FD in general: 141 settlements could be subject to fire outbreak. However, due to efficient work of the aircraft EMERCOM of Russia we can say that there were no fire outbreaks in any of the settlements during the day. No people perished during the day.

The forces from the neighbouring friendly countries were also engaged. These countries are Ukraine, Byelorussia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In particular, this refers to aviation. It is being deployed in Voronezh, Nizhniy Novgorod and Ryazan Regions and has already started working.

The task for today is to enforce the group in Central and Ural FD. This will be done at the expenses of the Ministry of Defence as well. I would like to note, that in some subjects of the Russian Federation positive result was reached and fire was eliminated by the existing there forces and facilities. These are Vladimir and Nizhniy Novgorod Regions where there were fewer active fires than put out ones. This allows us to say there is positive dynamics in this direction. All the fire extinguishing activities will be conducted in accordance with the plan of usage of forces and facilities. Source:

Armenia helps extinguish fires in Russia

Chaired by Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, the Government met in a regular session at the Office of Government. As suggested by the Prime Minister, the Government heard the report of the Minister of Emergency Situations on the need of providing emergency assistance to the forest fire-plagued Russian Federation. Yesterday and today fire brigades and corresponding equipment were fielded to the disaster zones in Russia. The Government decided to allocate AMD 24,600,000.00 to the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Armenia.

The number of fires in Russia grow, death toll reaches 50

The number of natural fires raging in Russia is growing. The death toll has reached 50, the information department of Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry /EMERCOM/ said on Thursday.

“A dead body was found as the houses burned down late last week were cleared in the Nizhny Novgorod Region,” the source said. “A patient died in a hospital in the Voronezh Region, thus the death toll has reached 50.”

“No more houses were burned over the past day,” the source said.

There are 843 fires, including 47 fires in peat fields, the ministry said.

“Over the past day, 373 new fires emerged, and 254 were extinguished, thus there are still 589 fires in Russia which occupy 196,000 hectares.”

The number of fires grew by 69, and the surface of fires grew by 7,000 hectares against August 4, the source said.

About every second fire /291/ at 71,000 hectares is localised.

At the same time, over the past day 15 new peat fires emerged, and as of Thursday there are still 41 peat fires in Russia – seven in the Sverdlovsk Region, 29 – in the Moscow Region, two – in Udmurtia, and one in the Ivanovo, Kostroma and Kaluga regions each.

There are almost 162,000 firemen and over 26,000 vehicles fighting the fires, EMERCOM said. Over 20 helicopters and jets extinguish fires.

Belarus Sends Special Machinery and Helicopter to Put out Fires in Russia

On August 5, a column of special machinery and Mi-8 helicopter of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Belarus left the airport of Lipki for Ryazan to assist in fighting against forest and peat fires. Moreover, to assist Russia in fighting against forest and peat fires there was formed a composite detachment of Belarusian Emergency Ministry.

The composite detachment includes 20 fire search-and-rescue vehicles of high cross-country ability, accompanied by five service vehicles and 150 rescuers, as well as Mi-8 helicopter of the MES, equipped with spillway device, BelTA informs.

From the airport of Lipki there departed a part of special machinery column, which included cars from Brest, Minsk and Grodno regions. In Orsha it will be joined by the second part of the column, which includes vehicles of the MES units of Vitebsk, Mogilev and Gomel regions, from where all the cars will go to Ryazan.

Then, there will be made a decision which Russia’s regions exactly are mostly needed in Belarusian rescuers’ help. Belarusian rescuers trip is planned to last two weeks, it can be extended depending on the situation.

As First Deputy Minister of Emergency Situations, Valentin Karpitsky, noted when giving the column a send-off, the composite detachment was formed under the instruction of the government of Belarus in coordination with the Russian side. “The situation with fires in Russia is very complicated, there were recorded more than 24 thousand seats with total area of more than 700 thousand hectares, and it’s very difficult for Russian rescuers to fight against them by their own”, Valentin Karpitsky said.

However, First Deputy Minister stressed that because of the heat in Belarus there also developed complicated situation with forest and peat fires. “But, we manage to find and eliminate fire at an early stage”, Valentin Karpitsky said. “MES departments are working in medium security mode, and the MES air force doubled the number of flights over the territory where the fire most likely to occur. All taken preventive measures allow us to keep the situation under control”.

As Telegraf already reported, earlier, Belarus offered Russia its assistance in extinguishing fires and restoration of housing for fire victims. As the spokesman of Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Peskov, said, the offer to assist was voiced by Prime Minister of Belarus, Sergei Sidorsky.

Ukraine supporting Russia – despite high fire risk in Ukraine

Official information from Ministry of Emergency of Ukraine of 5 August 2010: According to the Order of the President of Ukraine Mr. Viktor Yanukovych and within the intergovernmental agreement on mutual assistance in cases of emergencies, Ukraine was invited to assist Russia in controlling the large wildfires. Two fully-equipped fire fighter brigades (units) of the Ministry of Emergency of Ukraine arrived in Russia today. The two units of fire fighters which were dispatched are from the regional branches of MOU in Luhansk and Kharkiv regions – totaling 52 personnel and 12 vehicles. Earlier, on 3 August 2010, two AN-32P aircraft of Ministry of Emergency of Ukraine had been dispatched to Voronezh region, Russia. Up to 19:00h on 5 August 2010 they made 23 sorties and dropped a total of 136 tons of water on the fires.

In addition, in the regions of Ukraine that are close to the border with the Russian Federation, a state of readiness of additional fire-rescue equipment and personnel has been ordered. Also the Medical Center for Burned Victim Assistance of Donetsk, Ukraine, was moved to Russia and is ready to take over recovery and rehabilitation of children from regions affected by wildfires.

Source: Ministry of Emergency of Ukraine:

Extreme wildfire dangerous formed also in the territory of Ukraine, including Chornobyl exclusion zone area. President of Ukraine stopped his vacation and call for meeting of National Security Council Emergency Centres established in all oblasts of Ukraine to be ready for fast response for wildfire.

Wildfire danger map for Ukraine for 5 August 2010.
Source: State Forestry Committee of Ukraine;jsessionid=389EDC0FEB9EEB4440760CEA75B43498?art_id=59944&cat_id=32888

Ukraine information prepared by the UNISDR Regional Southeast Europe / Caucasus Wildland Fire Network and GFMC:

Thick smog from raging wildfires engulfs Moscow

Moscow was engulfed Wednesday by the thickest blanket of smog yet this summer, an acrid, choking haze from wildfires that have wiped out Russian forests, villages and a military base.

Passengers on Moscow’s subway said the eye-stinging haze hovered above the platforms, and City Hall warned of health risks from the smoke, which is carrying harmful gases, including carbon monoxide.

“I woke up before dawn and thought I was going to die of suffocation,” said Yadviga Pashkova, a frail, 62-year-old former schoolteacher who lives in central Moscow. “It felt awful because there was no way out.”

To the east, firefighters focused on beating flames back from a top-secret nuclear research facility. In the capital, President Dmitry Medvedev fired several high-ranking military officials over what he called criminal negligence in fires that ravaged a military base.

Russia is suffering through its worst heat wave on record, a condition that has sparked forest and peat fires across its central and western regions that have killed at least 48 people in the past week. Temperatures for weeks have soared as high as 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) in Moscow, where the average summer temperature usually is around 23 Celsius (75 Fahrenheit).

Over the last 24 hours, firefighters have extinguished 293 fires, but 403 others have been spotted and more than 500 others have continued to rage over large swathes of countryside, some of them out of control, the Emergencies Ministry said.

Dry winds have sent clouds of smog over Moscow before, but Wednesday’s was the worst yet, with the haze obscuring the capital’s landmarks and penetrating the subway system.

Moscow’s 10 million residents were cautioned to protect themselves against the polluting smog, which came from wildfires in forests and peat bogs to the south and east. The bogs were drained in Soviet times to harvest peat, leaving them prone to wildfires.

Pollution indicators in the capital reached a “critical barrier” overnight and “even healthy people must take preventative measures,” Moscow weather officials said. Residents were urged to face masks outdoors.

Humans were not the only ones suffering. The smoke and smog in Moscow also have sickened and killed wild and pet birds who are especially sensitive to air pollution, said Vladimir Romanov, director of The Green Parrot Hospital. He did not have specific figures.

Some 250 miles (400 kilometers) to the east, about 2,000 army troops and emergency personnel were fighting back flames that surrounded Russia’s top nuclear research facility in Sarov.

The situation there was “tense but not critical,” Deputy Defense Minister Dmitry Bulgakov said after new robotic firefighting equipment was sent to the scene overnight.

“There is no threat to the Federal Nuclear Center, and there is no reason for worry,” Bulgakov was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying. The country’s nuclear chief, Sergei Kiriyenko, was quoted as saying that all explosive and radioactive material had been moved off site as a precaution.

The top-secret facility is Russia’s main nuclear research center and the birthplace of Soviet nuclear weapons. Lawyers for the late Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London in 2006 after drinking tea laced with polonium, claimed the radioactive isotope that killed him was produced at Sarov.

Another risk of radioactive contamination stems from the forest fires sweeping through areas polluted by the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, Russian environmentalists said. The fires have the potential to send radioactive dust into the air, Nikolai Shmatkov of the World Wildlife Fund’s Russia office and Vladimir Chuprov of Russian Greenpeace told The Associated Press.

But nuclear energy scientists said the danger came not from radioactivity but from fine particles in the smoke.

“The concentration of radioactive elements will be so negligible that the smoke itself will be many more times more dangerous than the radioactivity in it,” Ravil Bakin of the Institute for Safe Development of Nuclear Energy told the AP. “Fine dust that contains chemical pollutants is the real danger and is much more poisonous than radioactivity.”

In the tiny village of Peredeltsy about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Moscow, locals worried about their future after wildfires left their homes in smoldering ruins.

“I pray we won’t be left in the street,” said Yelena Savina, 27, who lost the home she shared with seven other family members. She said the fire approached the village so quickly on Sunday the family barely had time to escape.

“Everything burned in 15 minutes,” she said of the village of about 20 houses, now surrounded by charred woodland. She said she was counting on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to follow through on promises of 200,000 rubles ($6,600) compensation plus new homes.

Medvedev fired the chief of Russia’s naval aviation and at least seven high-ranking military officials after fires burned at least half of the buildings at a military base near Moscow. Russian media said up to 200 naval aircraft may have been destroyed.

“If something similar happens in other places, in other agencies, I’ll do exactly the same thing, with no sympathy,” Medvedev said at a security council meeting Wednesday.

The weather this week will not likely help the firefighting efforts, as temperatures in Moscow and to the south and east were forecast to reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit).

Death toll from raging Russian wildfires hits 50

Rescuers pulled a body out from a Russian village gutted by wildfires and another person died of their injuries as the death toll from hundreds of blazes nationwide rose to at least 50.

Almost 600 separate fires were still raging, mostly in western Russia, the Emergencies Ministry said Thursday, as the country endured its hottest summer on record.

Thick smog that had blanketed Moscow partially lifted early Thursday but could return with no end in sight to a record heat wave, officials warned.

Temperatures up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) have exacerbated forest and peat bog fires across Russia’s central and western regions. The forecast for the week ahead shows little change in the capital and surrounding regions, where the average summer temperature is around 23 Celsius (75 Fahrenheit).

The body was found in a village near Russia’s fifth-largest city, Nizhny Novgorod, about 300 miles east of Moscow and the hospital death occurred near Voronezh, southeast of Moscow. Those regions are among the worst-hit as weeks of wildfires have decimated forests and villages, destroying close to 2,000 homes.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has promised to build new, better homes before winter, and vowed each victim would receive $6,600 in compensation. The sum is huge in a country whose average monthly wage is around $800, and

Russian media say some residents may have deliberately torched their dwellings to qualify.

To the east, firefighters focused on beating flames back from a top-secret nuclear research facility in the city of Sarov. A Sarov news website on Thursday cited local officials as saying a wall of fire had been broken down into several smaller blazes. On Wednesday, officials said the closest blaze was still several miles from the main facilities at the Russian Federal Nuclear Research Center and as a precaution all hazardous materials had been evacuated.

In the capital, President Dmitry Medvedev fired several high-ranking military officials Wednesday over what he called criminal negligence in fires that ravaged a military base.

Fires Rage In Russia, Death Toll Rises To 48

President Dmitry Medvedev broke off his summer holiday on Wednesday and flew back to Moscow for emergency talks as the death toll from Russia’s deadliest wildfires in nearly four decades hit 48.

Thick clouds of acrid, choking smoke from forest and peat bog fires blanketed the capital. Authorities told residents to stay indoors despite the sweltering heat to avoid concentrations of toxic carbon monoxide well above safe levels.

Keen to stamp his authority on the government’s response to the fires — so far largely handled by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — Medvedev sacked several senior navy officers for failing to stop forest fires from ravaging a naval storage base outside Moscow last week and destroying valuable equipment.

“Despite the fact that we asked the Defense Ministry to help with extinguishing fires to help the civil population, in the majority of cases the ministry cannot (even) protect itself,” Medvedev told officials in the Kremlin after returning from his Black Sea summer residence at Sochi.

The fires have swept through Russia’s tinder-dry forests in the hottest summer since records began 130 years ago, leaving thousands homeless and prompting leaders to declare a state of emergency in seven of the worst hit regions.

Critics say the government has been slow to respond. They also allege that changes to the law rammed through parliament by the Kremlin and the timber lobby in 2006 fatally weakened fire protection in Russia’s vast woodlands, the world’s biggest.

“The situation with forest fires in the country has on the whole stabilized but remains tense and dangerous,” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told officials during a visit to the southern region of Voronezh, one of the worst hit.


Putin has promised the state will help rebuild all homes destroyed by the fires and has pledged generous compensation.

The prospect of government cash led a group of women to praise Russia’s paramount leader when he visited a local hotel housing 155 people whose homes have burned down.

Residents thanked Putin for offering money and asked eagerly for details of compensation schemes, taking pictures of the premier on mobile phones as he spoke with them.

The visit to Voronezh contrasted sharply with a meeting in Nizhny Novgorod last Friday when villagers berated Putin, demanding immediate action to rebuild their homes.

Some 170,000 people including troops were battling at least 520 fires raging on Wednesday over an area of 1,885 sq km, the Emergencies Ministry said.

The wildfires are Russia’s deadliest since 1972, when at least 104 people died in Moscow region alone in forest and peat fires that destroyed an area of 100,000 square km of the then Soviet Union, the ministry said.

A record heatwave has engulfed central parts of European Russia since mid June, ruining much of the wheat crop in some areas and raising fears that a poor harvest in the world’s third largest wheat exporter could push up global food prices.

The economy showed the first signs of damage from the heatwave, with the services sector expanding in July at its slowest pace in four months.

German carmaker Volkswagen said that due to smoke from the fires, it had temporarily halted production at a factory in Kaluga, southwest of Moscow, that produced 48,500 cars last year.


Moscow, a city of 10.5 million, was shrouded in acrid smoke.

“The pollution is at the worst level since 2002 and is approaching those levels,” Alexei Popikov, an expert on air quality at Moscow’s pollution monitoring agency, told Reuters.

The carbon monoxide count in Moscow soared to 5.7 times safe levels overnight and Russia’s top lung doctor warned residents are inhaling the equivalent of 40 cigarettes every few hours.

City dwellers complained of waking with headaches and sore throats. Shops have run out of fans and some residents have taken to wearing masks over their mouths in the street.

The forest fires and scorching temperatures have complicated operations for Russia’s large and aging nuclear sector.

A reactor at the Novovoronezh power station was shut down on Wednesday because transformers broke due to high air temperatures. Other reactors at the station were working normally, state nuclear corporation Rosatom said.

More than 2,100 firefighters were battling fires near a secretive nuclear research center at Sarov in Nizhny Novgorod province, where the first Soviet atom and hydrogen bombs were designed, about 350 km (220 miles) east of Moscow.

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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