GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires  in the Russian Federation  

07 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes:

Source: MODIS Terra scene (acquired on 7 August 2010, 500m resolution).

Close up of the active fire and smoke situation on 7 August 2010

For observation of air pollution by fire smoke in downtown Moscow see the following webcam:

News from the media:

Interview with Alexei Ivanovich Savinov, Head of the Federal Forestry Agency, by TV channel VESTI 24 (7 August 2010, broadcasted 19:39)

Reporter: We are wondering about the current fire situation.
Savinov: Concerning to Moscow region, we will put out active fires up to 9 August 2010. But we still have new fires every day. At national level, however, we have critical situations in Nizhni Novgorod and Voronezh … in the North West regions.

Reporter: What is the problem this year , why so many fires?
Savinov: Up to 29 July all was under control, but that hurricane that passed through European regions changed the situation dramatically and fires went out of control. And here we can say that the regions were not ready for a such situation. If to speak about the situation until we the new Forest Code was enacted in 2007 we had more than 100 own aircraft, today there are 46 only. There were more than 3000 smokejumpers and helirappellers, but today jut 1600. The equipment and techniques are very old, more than 70% require renewal.

Reporter: Who is in Charge for fire prevention and suppression?
Savinov: Regions are responsible for all.

Reporter: What about the foresters activity?
Savinov: It is all depends on Forest Code, and it is main document for forest management. The President made an order to changes the Code, and we are working on it. I think it is required to make a lot of changes to have a good legal document, alternatively we have to develop a completely new Forest Code.



322 forest, peat fires break out in RF over past day, most put out

Over the past 24 hours, 322 new forest and peat fires broke out in Russia, and most of them have been extinguished, a Russian Emergencies Ministry source told Itar-Tass.

Over the past day, 290 new forest fire outbreaks were reported in the country, and 244 of them have been extinguished. At present, 577 fires continue to burn on more than 193,500 hectares. The day before, 558 fires raged over more than 179,500 hectares, the source said.

Thirty two new peat fires were also reported. Seven of them are put out. At present, 32 peat fires continue to burn.

The most difficult situation is in the Moscow Region where 26 peat fires are burning. The capital again is shrouded in thick smoke this Saturday. Visibility on Moscow roads is minimal.

There are two peat bog fires in the Nizhny Novgorod Region, and the Ivanovo, Kaluga, Tver and Pskov regions each has one such fire.

According to the Emergencies Ministry, 25,280 wild fires have been reported in Russia in 2010, 20 percent more than in the same period of last year. Over the time, 1,001 peat fires have been reported, 4.2 times more than last year.

More than 161,000 people and more than 26,000 units of machines, including 56 aircraft, have worked to fight forest fires.

Russian troops dig canal to bar fire from atom site

Russian troops dug a 5-mile long canal to keep fires caused by a record heatwave away from a nuclear arms site, local media said on Saturday as air pollution from the crisis rose to more than six times above normal.

Forest and peat fires by the highest temperatures ever registered in Russia have killed at least 52 people, made more than 4,000 homeless, diverted many flights and forced Muscovites to wear surgical masks to filter out foul air.

Map of Sarov and surroundings, with active fires,
depicted by WorldView-2 satellite sensor (2-m resolution),
on 6 August 2010, 08:38 UTC, process by © DLR-ZKI (German Aerospace Center.)

Moscow Choked by Smoke as Forest, Peat-Bog Fires Spread, Delaying Flights

Acrid smoke from forest and peat-bog fires east of Moscow shrouded Russia’s capital city in smoke, raising pollution to dangerous levels, delaying flights and canceling sports events.

At least 47 flights were delayed today as visibility at city airports fell to as little as 350 meters (1,148 feet). “Visibility is deteriorating,” Sergei Izvolsky, a spokesman for the Federal Air Transportation Agency, said by telephone. “We are not seeing any improvement.” As many as 140 flights were delayed yesterday.

Carbon monoxide in Moscow’s air rose to more than six times the admissible maximum level today and air pollution is worsening, the city’s environmental protection department said on its website. People should stay indoors, avoid opening windows and use “multilayer gauze masks” when outside, it said.

Emergency crews are battling 577 fires covering 193,516 hectares (747 square miles) across Russia, the Emergency Situations Ministry said on its website. So far this year, fires have scorched 751,907 hectares, an area about three times the size of Luxembourg. The fires have killed at least 52 people, the Health Ministry said.

President Dmitry Medvedev has personally donated 350,000 rubles ($11,740) to help those affected by the fires, the Kremlin said on its website today. The government pledged 35 billion rubles in aid to agricultural producers and 5 billion rubles to rebuild homes destroyed by fires, in addition to 200,000 rubles to each person who loses a property.

High Temperatures

Temperatures as high as 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit) will continue to affect central Russia and along the Volga River, where the fires are concentrated, at least through tomorrow, the state Hydrometeorological Center said on its website. Extreme fire danger is forecast for many regions.

People travelling to Moscow and surrounding areas should “carefully consider” their plans because of “hazardous levels of air pollution” and “numerous flight delays,” the U.S. State Department said on its website. The warning is in effect until Sept. 5. Italy’s Foreign Ministry advised people to “postpone any travel plans that aren’t strictly necessary.”

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière ordered 100,000 breathing masks to be sent to Russia and will make hoses, pumps and other equipment available to help firefighting efforts, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement today.

‘Remains Difficult’

“The situation remains difficult,” Vladimir Stepanov, head of the Emergency Situations Ministry’s crisis center in Moscow, said in comments broadcast on state television today.

Moscow’s city center was uncharacteristically empty after people tried to escape the heat and the smoke by leaving town on Friday evening. The “unfavorable ecological situation” caused soccer matches scheduled for the weekend in Moscow and the surrounding region to be canceled, Russia’s Football Premier League said in a statement on its website.

Russia declared emergencies in 28 crop-producing regions because of the ongoing drought. Agriculture, which VTB Capital estimates accounts for about 4 percent of gross domestic product, is the hardest hit part of the economy with grain yields down 20 percent this year.

Russia, the world’s third-biggest grower of wheat, banned grain exports from Aug. 15 to Dec. 31, after the Agriculture Ministry cut its grain crop forecast to as little as 70 million metric tons from 97.1 million tons last year.

“The effect of the grain shortage has not had a visible effect on consumer prices as yet,” Renaissance Capital’s analysts in Moscow, Anton Nikitin and Nikolay Podguzov, said in an e-mailed note yesterday. “It is only a question of time when the change in the consumer price growth reveals these effects.”

Latest news from Kiev / Chernobyl (from GFMC Correspondent translated from Ukrainian websites, 7 August 2010)

Current information in regards of wildfires in the exclusion zone: According to the Head of administration of the exclusion zone, Mr. Sergey Vus, from 2 to 5 August 2010 two wildfires occurred in the zone. One of them started at 01:00h a.m. with an area burned of 40 m2 and another fire burned an old building. Both fires were  suppressed quickly.

At the same time during Internet conference of Minister of Emergency of Opposition (shadow) Government, Mr. Yurij Grymchak, mentioned about possible forest fires in the exclusion zone. Yurij Grymchak was informed by citizen Mr. Volodymyr Mikhailovych who describer situation in the exclusion zone quite clearly: Large fuel loads on a area of 150,000 ha inside / around the Exclusion Zone are found due abandoned forest management, there are no forest roads. A large fire occurred in 1992, affecting 15,000 ha (5000 ha crown fires, 12,000 ha surface and ground fires).

Current wildfire danger in Ukraine (7 August 2010)

Умовний клас пожежонебезпеки – це комплексний показник поточного дня, який визначається як сума добутків температури повітря на різницю між значенням температури і точкою роси кожного дня, за кількість днів після останнього дощу.

Source: Fire Danger Forecast by State Forestry Committee of Ukraine

Additional information from the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) on radioactive fires and fires on other contaminated terrain (7 August 2010)

A dedicated initiative in 2009 resulted in a clear recommendation directed to the governments of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, concerning the threats of fires burning on contaminated terrain. On 6-8 October 2009 an Advanced Seminar “Wildfires and Human Security: Fire Management on Terrain Contaminated by Radioactivity, Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and Land Mines” addressed consequences of wildfires and fire management on contaminated terrain ( Kiev and Chornobyl, Ukraine, 6-8 October 2009), conducted by the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) in the frame of the activities of the Council of Europe (CoE) and the joint project “Enhancing National Capacity on Fire Management and Risk Reduction in the South Caucasus” (Environment and Security Initiative [ENVSEC]), the UNISDR Regional Southeast Europe / Caucasus and Central Asia Wildland Fire Networks and the UNECE / FAO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire. Documents:

Red Square shrouded by haze as smog chokes Moscow

The multi-coloured cupolas of Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square were little more than a shadow in the haze Friday as Muscovites wheezed and coughed through the city’s worst smog in a generation.

As health officials warned residents to stay inside and avoid physical exertion, red-eyed Muscovites struggled to deal with the smoke as it spread through city streets, filtered into shops and even seeped underground.

Russia’s worst wildfires on record have sent smoke pouring into the capital that has already been subjected for weeks to a relentless heatwave.

In a pharmacy on central Tverskaya Street, coughing residents lined up to buy sanitary masks that they hoped would make it easier to breathe.

“I don’t know if it really helps, they’re meant to protect against viruses, but they’re very popular. We used to sell them individually, now we’re only selling them in batches of 10,” said pharmacist Svetlana Gugova.

“But I don’t see anything else that can really help,” she said, adding that she had sold more than 300 masks on Friday morning alone.

The air quality was so bad that visibility was no more than 100 metres (yards). Monuments — from Saint Basil’s to the spires of the Kremlin and Stalin-era skyscrapers — were barely visible behind a thick curtain of smog.

Despite health officials’ pleas for people to stay inside, immigrant workers — mostly Tajiks, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz — were seen at building sites, toiling like any other day.

“Of course it’s more difficult to work, to breathe even! But what can we do, they tell us to work, so we work,” confided Nurbek, a Kyrgyz worker picking up debris at the building site of an Intercontinental luxury hotel.

Health officials have also called for reduced work days, but the workers said they were putting in just as many hours, on sites where the dust from construction mingled with the heavy smoke.

“Immigrants are slaves, not workers,” said Aibek, a welder at the same construction site.

The smoke was even working its way underground where, in underpasses loaded with small shops, saleswomen said they were suffering without relent.

“We have been sitting here for weeks already in the heat, that was bad enough, but now we have the smoke and that’s just unbearable,” Irina Klachkova, a woman in her 50s with a damp cloth pressed to her face, said at her drinks kiosk in an underpass near Pushkin Square.

As the smog intensified, Russia’s health ministry published a list of measures for Muscovites to take to protect their health.

“Try to avoid going outside early in the morning, that’s when the concentration of smoke is at its maximum,” it suggested, as well as “avoid being outside too long” and “avoid physical activity”.

Yevgenia Semutnikova, head of state environmental body Mosecomonitoring, said even those without health issues needed to worry and that the best solution was for residents to stay indoors.

“This is a serious reason not to go outside, not only for the elderly, children under three, pregnant women and people suffering from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, but also for people in good health,” she said.

And the worst news for Muscovites was that there were few sign of the smog letting up as wildfires continued to burn.

The emergencies ministry said the total area ablaze was down slightly at 179,600 hectares (444,000 acres), but there were still 588 fires across the affected region in European Russia and 248 new fires had appeared over the last 24 hours.

Russian smoke adds to B.C. wildfire haze

Smoke from forest fires in Russia that’s choking Moscow residents and disrupting aircraft flights there is also contributing to B.C.’s wildfire haze and air quality problems.

“Some of the smoke is coming from Russia,” fire information officer Gwen Eamer said Friday. “Smoke can travel great distances.”

She said the amount of smoke from Russian fires affecting B.C. would be relatively small.

“The vast majority of the smoke visible around the province is from our active fires in B.C.”

Some Muscovites have taken to wearing breathing masks and concerns have been raised that the Russian fires may recirculate radioactive particles from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

An air quality advisory was issued Wednesday and remains in effect for the Lower Mainland as well as other parts of B.C.

Air quality is worst in the Quesnel and Williams Lake areas. For current readings see:

More firefighters from the U.S., Alberta and Ontario have joined crews in B.C. to battle the wildfires that continue to rage across much of the province.

The 207 imported personnel include eight sustained action unit crews and 10 fire management specialists, bringing to 457 the number of out-of-province fire personnel in action.

Fifteen smoke jumpers from Washington State are also coming here.

They’re being based out of the Cariboo and Prince George Fire Centres, but crews in all regions remain on high alert to the potential for new fires.

B.C. also has more than 2,000 contract and emergency firefighters already in the field.

More than 400 fires are currently burning in B.C. and about 1,300 have been recorded so far this year, consuming 107,000 hectares to date.

That’s more than the average of 81,000 hectares burnt and the worst fire season since 2006 when 139,000 was lost.

The province has so far spent $66.2 million – more than its $52-million fire fighting budget for 2010 – and the efforts are running at a cost of about $6 million per day.

Some of the biggest blazes are near Williams Lake and Lillooet, and are being fought by a combination of ground crews, water bombers and helicopters.

The challenging season is the result of hot dry conditions, coupled with lightning and wind.

The fire danger is rated high to extreme across 80 per cent of the province.

Although cooler conditions are coming this weekend, warm and dry weather is expected to resume next week.


Moscow in fire-smoke haze on 6 August 2010.

Wildfire smog worsens in Moscow

Thick smog caused by the spreading wildfires in Russia has worsened in Moscow where it has sharply reduced visibility and grounded flights at airports.

Flights at the two international airports of Domodedovo and Vnukovo in Moscow were disrupted after visibility on the runway went down to 400 meters, less than half the average.

“Fifteen flights were diverted to other airports overnight, significantly delaying outgoing flights on the same planes,” the Associated Press quoted Yelena Galanova, a spokeswoman for Domodedovo Airport, as saying on Friday.

The smog that has been affecting the city for a week appeared to be fading on Thursday. However, as the temperature rose to almost 40 degrees C, the worsened smog forced many residents of the Russian capital to wear masks.

Air pollutants such as carbon monoxide were reportedly four times higher than average — an unprecedented record in the Russian capital.

Wildfires in Russia have been spreading for two weeks, engulfing over 190,000 hectares of land, killing 50 people, and displacing several thousands.

The spreading flames raised more concerns as they closed in on a top-secret Russian nuclear research facility in the city of Sarov near Moscow.

Officials had warned earlier that hundreds of people might lose their lives to the smog from peat fires, as Russia is experiencing its hottest weather in the past 130 years.

US warns travelers to Russia of fire risk

The US State Department warned Americans on Friday to “carefully consider” plans to travel to parts of Russia in light of devastating fires ravaging areas near Moscow.

“Forest fires and extreme high temperatures in the Moscow region and surrounding areas of central Russia have produced hazardous levels of air pollution and caused numerous flight delays and cancellations in Moscow,” the department said in a warning set to expire September 5.

“The hazardous air quality means that persons with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low. Everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors,” it added.

“Persons contemplating travel to Moscow and surrounding areas should carefully consider their plans in light of these developments.”

The warning noted that “fire-related conditions can change quickly,” and urged Americans planning travel Moscow and its environs to carefully monitor weather conditions and airline cancellations.

Moscow was choked in noxious smog Friday emanating from forest fires that have already killed 52 people.

The country’s defense ministry has ordered the evacuation of missiles from a depot outside Moscow as authorities warned that fires could reactivate contamination in an area hit by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Wildfire Smoke Delays Over 140 Flights Out of Moscow

Thick smoke from peat and forest fires delayed over 140 flights from Moscow airports as the city continues to battle the effects of a crushing heat wave.

Visibility is below 700 meters at some airports, and was below 400 meters earlier, Bloomberg News reported. Carbon monoxide pollution is now 4.8 times the acceptable limit.

Emergency services are fighting 558 fires, covering a total of 693 square miles across the country. This year, fires have razed a total area of about three times the size of Luxembourg and killed at least 52 people.

Authorities are advising people in Moscow to stay indoors, limit physical activity and wear a mask when outside.

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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