GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires  in the Russian Federation  

08 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes:

Source: MODIS Terra scene (acquired on 8 August 2010, 500m resolution).

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

Wildfire  situation report of  the Aerial Forest Fire Center of Russia (Avialesookhrana)
7 August, 2010
According  to  the wildfire situation report of 7 August 2010 a total of
560  fires affected 21,933 ha forested and  953 ha non-forested lands.
96 fires of them were reported as new fires.

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

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

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

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

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

News from the media:

RussiaPoland dispatches firefighting unit to help Russia with wildfires

Poland has dispatched a team of 155 firefighters for tackling wildfires raging in Central Russia, officials said.

“The decision was made by Polish Interior Minister Jerzy Miller,” an interior ministry spokesman said.

The convoy of 50 firefighting vehicles crossed into Lithuania and Latvia on Saturday and headed to the Russian border.

Polish firefighters are expected to stay in Russia for two weeks.

On Thursday Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk offered help in tackling the deadly wildfires in Central Russia. In a letter to his Russian counterpart Tusk said that his country was ready to “render comprehensive aid in dealing with the wildfires and their aftermath.”Source:

China offers aid to wildfire-ravaged RussiaChinese President Hu Jintao voiced his support to the Russian people and offered aid to the Russian regions ravaged by wildfires in a telegram to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on Monday.

“In this dangerous time, the Chinese people won’t stand idly by. China is ready to allocate Russia emergency humanitarian aid and lend support to the Russian people in their fight against forest fires,” the telegram said.

“I believe, that under your steady leadership the Russian government and people will tackle this unprecedented natural disaster and will recover the beauty of their motherland,” the Chinese leader addressed Medvedev.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who is currently leading rescue operations in flood-damaged regions of China, voiced his support to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The situation in Russia has received wide media coverage in China. Photographs of Muscovites wearing face masks and forests on fire found empathy among the people of China.

A scorching heat wave has gripped much of European Russia since mid-June, sparking wildfires and causing the worst drought in decades.

The fires have been burning for two weeks, with a total of 51 people reported killed. The hot weather is forecast to continue well into the week, and the southerly and easterly winds blowing smoke across the capital are not expected to shift for at least a couple of days.

Some 3,500 have been left homeless across the central part of European Russia.

The smog in the Russian capital has been far worse than usual for more than a couple of weeks as smoke from nearby peat bog and forest fires has mixed with exhaust fumes and other pollutants, bringing pollution to an all-time high of 6-7 times the norm over the past weekend.

Conditions eased a bit on Sunday.

The record-breaking heat wave in Moscow will continue through mid-August, meteorologists say. Source:

EMERCOM: 830 wildfires are registered in Russia 8 August 2010)
EMERCOM of Russia informs that 830 wildfires are registered in Russian Federation including 29 peat fires.

a) forest fires
During twenty-four hours 269 wildfires have been discovered and 276 were suppressed.
554 wildfires are still active on area 190 474 hectares in comparison with previous 24 hours having 577 wildfires on area 193 516 hectares. 362 wildfires are contained on area 105 329 hectares. 70 large wildfires are active on area 176 433 ha.

b) peat fires
During 24 hours 2 peat fires started, 3 peat fires suppressed, 26 peat fires are still active.

From the beginning of 2010 fire season 25 689 wildfires started on total area 744 488 ha in Russian Federation including 1003 peat fires on area 354 ha.

161 886 persons, 26 382 machineries including 56 aircrafts were involved in wildfires suppression. 129 171 persons, 19 341 machineries, including 23 aircrafts were involved from EMERCOM of Russia in forest fire fighting.

394 persons and 52 machineries including 5 aircrafts and 5 helicopters have been involved from foreign countries to suppress forest fires.
Source: (8 August 2010)

МЧС: На территории России зарегистрировано 830 очагов природных пожаров

МЧС России сообщает о том, что на территории Российской Федерации зарегистрировано 830 очагов природных пожаров, в том числе 29 – торфяных.

а) лесные пожары
В течение суток возникло 269 очагов, потушено 276 очагов, продолжают действовать 554 очага на общей площади 190 474,26 га (за предыдущие сутки – 577 очагов на площади 193516,36 га), из них локализовано 362 очага на общей площади 105 329,49 га. Действует 70 крупных очагов пожаров на площади 176 433,4 га.

б) торфяные пожары
В течение суток возникло 2 очага, потушено 3 очага, продолжает действовать 26 очагов.
Всего с начала пожароопасного периода 2010 г., по данным МЧС России, на территории Российской Федерации возникло 25 689 очагов природных пожаров на общей площади 744 488,61 га, в том числе 1003 очага торфяных пожаров на общей площади 353,97 га.
Для тушения лесных пожаров привлекалось 161 886 человек и 26 382 единицы техники, из них 56 воздушных судов, в том числе от МЧС России – 129 171 человек и 19341 единица техники, из них 23 воздушных судна.

Для оказания помощи в тушении природных пожаров от иностранных государств привлечено 394 человека и 52 единицы техники, в том числе 10 воздушных судов (5 самолетов, 5 вертолетов).
Source: (8 August 2010)

Wildfires Cause Foreign Ambassadors in Russia to Leave
The embassies of Poland, Austria and Canada have withdrawn a large number of their diplomats in Moscow because of the thick smog cause by the wildfires in Russia.

The Russian radio “Echo of Moscow” announced Sunday that Moscow continues to be consumed in thick smog and the level of carbon monoxide are 6,5 times more than the maximum allowable concentration.

France has announced it will sent out an aircraft to help put out the wildfires, Italy has also sent two firefighting planes to Russia.

Poland has sent 155 firefighters. Germany has also decided to help Russia by sending 100 000 protective masks, as well as water hoses, pumps and generators.

95 of the top Bulgarian firemen have also been sent to help Russia with its fight against the devastating forest and peat fires.

Russia’s biggest concern is that the fires may unleash toxic substances in nuclear plants or in areas with a high level of toxicity, like the relatively close located Ukrainian nuclear power plant Chernobyl.

Russia’s Ministry for Emergency Situations has announced that there has been a stabilization of the forest and peat fires around Moscow for the first time in two weeks.

For the first time in the last 24 hours the put-out fires around Moscow have outnumbered the newly started ones.

According to an official from the Ministry for Emergency Situations, the number of people who have died in the devastating wildfires has reached 52. Thousands of people’s homes have also been destroyed.

Moscow opens anti-smog centers as fires burn
Moscow authorities say they have opened more than 120 anti-smog centers as wildfires around the capital suffocate residents and ground dozens of flights.

Municipal official Vladimir Petrosyan said Sunday that exasperated Muscovites could “get their breath back” in 123 air-conditioned rooms that have opened to the public in government buildings and hospitals.

Most apartments in Moscow lack air conditioning.

Emergency officials said they registered 49 wildfires around Moscow on Sunday, including 14 peat bog fires.

The Moscow Ecological Monitoring Service said the concentration of airborne pollutants such as carbon monoxide is more than three times normal levels.

Moscow airports reported delays or diversions of some 90 flights Sunday due to low visibility.

Russia wildfires: Thick, toxic smog chokes Moscow residents
Mila Kharitonova says she feels as though she were trapped in a burning building, amid unbearable heat and smoke, and finds herself constantly struggling to suppress the urge to grab her children and flee.
“There’s nowhere to run to, because it’s worse on the streets outside,” says the mother of three, who lives in a third-floor flat in central Moscow.

For almost two weeks, a thick, toxic blanket of smoke from blazing suburban peat bogs has settled over the capital. The acrid, choking haze, combined with drought and more than a month of the most relentless heatwave on record, has left many Muscovites almost literally choking with concern.

Since late June, Russia has been hammered by daily temperatures that have been 10 to 15 degrees C above the July average of 23 degrees C, while the cooling trend that usually begins in August so far shows no signs of materializing.

The heat and extraordinarily dry conditions have spawned the worst and most extensive wildfires in memory, spreading across the steppes and forests of central Russia and generating a thousand-mile wide plume of smoke that can be clearly seen in satellite photos.

As of Sunday, the Ministry of Emergency Services said there were 554 wildfires raging around European Russia, which have killed 52 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes. Some of the worst blazes are almost literally on Moscow’s doorstep, including about 30 huge peat bog fires that firefighters have been unable to control.

Putin bans wheat exports

With up to a third of Russia’s wheat crop destroyed, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last week ordered a complete ban on Russian wheat exports for the coming year.

The main political result of the crisis has been to confirm Mr. Putin in the minds of many as the country’s most energetic and effective leader, but some argue the longer the emergency goes on the more likely it seems that he may reap the blame for the Kremlin’s slow and halting handling of the fires.

“The heat is a climate issue that we can do nothing about,” says Irina Glushkova, a researcher with the official Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow. “But fires are another matter. All the state agencies that were connected with forest protection, fire prevention, and firefighting have been downsized and stripped of funding in recent years. That’s a political issue that should be discussed.”

In Moscow, it’s all about the smog

For most Muscovites the central issue of the moment is the cloud of smog that swirls around their bedroom windows, penetrates into their homes, and even seeps into the deepest metro stations.
“Who knows what the long-term health effects of breathing this stuff are?” says Ms. Kharitonova, who leaves her flat only to buy groceries, and wears a surgical face mask when she does.

She keeps all windows closed, and the interior of her apartment is festooned with wet blankets and towels – on the advice of Russia’s health ministry – and
she burns candles that someone told her help to destroy toxins in the air.

Is that the sun or the moon?

On Saturday, the worst day yet, Kharitonova says the smoke was so heavy that she could barely see across the street from her kitchen window. Downtown Moscow was shrouded in a swirling cream-colored haze that virtually blotted out landmarks like the Kremlin and the massive Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Even the sun, burning in a cloudless sky, might have been mistaken at times for a full moon.

Several embassies, including those of Poland, Canada, and Austria, have evacuated nonessential personnel, and almost every major government has issued travel advisories warning citizens this may not be a good time to visit Russia.

According to the Health Ministry, Saturday’s pollution was “the worst of 2010,” with carbon monoxide levels at 6.5 times the maximum allowable level and the concentration of other unspecified toxins at “up to 9 times” acceptable limits.

But Russian authorities have been less forthcoming on the public health impact of the crisis, leaving journalists to resort to mostly anecdotal reports.

The independent Interfax agency quoted an anonymous official source as saying that Moscow’s mortality rate for July rose by 29.7 percent as a consequence of the “catastrophic heat and smog.”

The rumor mill is ablaze with talk of carcinogens from burning toxic waste dumps and radioactive smoke from fires raging near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear station, which suffered a nuclear meltdown in 1986.

Russian authorities say they have prevented a potential disaster in the nuclear weapons-building center of Sarov, about 220 miles east of Moscow, where emergency workers have dug a canal to block a forest fire that was advancing upon a military storage facility.

Forecasts suggest that the heat and smoke are likely to persist at least until the middle of the coming week. How long cleanup and recovery will take is anyone’s guess.

Aide française à la Russie (8 août 2010)
Suite à la proposition d’assistance faite par la France à la Russie, trois experts de lutte anti-incendie partent ce soir pour Moscou ainsi que 30 000 masques anti-fumée.

Un avion bombardier décollera également demain matin pour la Russie. Source: 

Number of wildfire hotspots in Russia increases again, to over 560
After Friday’s decrease in the number of wildfire hotspots registered by two NASA satellites on the Russian territory, their number grew by more than 200 on Saturday.

According to the ScanEx website which receives information from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, a total of 564 hotspots from wildfires were registered across Russia, up 202 from Friday.

The Aqua satellite, equipped with an atmospheric infrared sounder, and Terra, equipped with a thermal emission and reflection radiometer, identified 636 forest fires in Russia on Tuesday, 376 on Wednesday, 535 on Thursday and 362 on Friday.

Wildfires continue however to rage across much of the central part of European Russia as the country experiences an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures of up to and above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The death toll in the blazes rose to 52 on Friday.

The Russian health ministry said a total of 472 people across Russia sought medical aid in connection with the disaster, and 43 of them remain in hospitals.

Siberia’s Khanty Mansiisk Autonomous Area was the most affected, with a total of 75 wildfires registered.

Moscow did not make it into the top ten, with nine wildfire hotspots reported.

On Saturday Moscow saw its worst air pollution in 2010, with carbon monoxide levels being 6.5 times more than the maximum allowable concentration. The concentration of other poisonous substances in the city air was nine times above the norm.


Russia’s Response to Fires Does Little to Calm
The flames, bright orange and menacing, advanced steadily through a field of dried-out reeds, sending up coils of smoke and heading in the general direction of a village that, with its log homes, picket fences and gigantic haystacks, seemed to have been laid out by an arsonist.

With calamity perhaps only a few minutes away, all that stood between the flames and the village, Zaprudino, was 58-year-old Vladimir M. Ulyonov, equipped with a shovel and a lot of anger at his government for failing to provide even the most minimal assistance.

In this summer of extreme heat, drought, crop failures and, now, a nationwide eruption of wildfires, the Russian government is facing a rare upwelling of popular anger. More than 3,000 people have been left homeless because of the fires, the government has said, and 52 have been killed.

And as the acres burn and the damage mounts, the government is being tested at all levels and, quite often, found wanting. After decades of institutional inertia and official corruption, opposition figures here say, the government’s capacity to respond to crises has been severely eroded, a fact that has emerged starkly in recent days.

When the wildfires broke out, stoked by the hottest weather here since record-keeping began, more than 130 years, ago, officials and the Russian news media reported that firefighters had discovered access roads to the forests were overgrown and in poor repair, ponds intended to provide water for refilling their tanks were filled with sludge and their fire trucks were frequently broken down.

Local officials also blame a revised 2006 forest code that allowed logging companies to contract out firefighting operations. When the fires broke out, the contractors were woefully unprepared and inadequately equipped, said Viktor N. Sorokhin, a deputy head of administration for the Orekhovo-Zuyevo district, about 50 miles east of Moscow.

The new code also cut the number of foresters in the district by half, he added, to 150 from 300.

As the fire damage mounts, critics have noted that Ilim Pulp, a timber company half owned by International Paper, where President Dmitiri A. Medvedev worked as a corporate lawyer in the 1990s, had lobbied hard for the legislation easing logging regulation.

Whatever the reasons, a recent tour found the Orekhovo-Zoyevo district in dire need of more equipment and personnel. Beside the M-108 highway, a two-lane ribbon of asphalt carved through a towering birch forest, a fire burned without a single firefighter in sight, smoke wafting onto the road as trucks zoomed past through the haze.

To deflect mounting criticism, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin has met fire victims and given generous aid to those who lost homes. On Thursday, he banned grain exports to ease concern of shortages or rising prices.

Russia’s leaders have also made daily announcements critical of lower-level officials. On Friday, Mr. Medvedev said he would hold mayors accountable for negligence. On Thursday, he cut short a vacation in Sochi, on the Black Sea, to return to Moscow and dismiss five military officials for failing to protect a base in the Moscow region that burned.

“If something similar happens in other places, in other agencies, I’ll do exactly the same thing, with no sympathy,” he said.

Dmitri S. Peskov, a spokesman for Mr. Putin, said the criticism of governors and other local officials merely reflected the division of responsibility for firefighting in Russia, as most fire brigades come under regional authorities.

Whoever is ultimately responsible, the fires have done extensive damage, and many continue to burn out of control. The Russian government had had to remove artillery shells from one military base and to remove radioactive material from a huge nuclear research complex in central Russia.

On Saturday, Moscow was choked with smoke, which seemed more like a smelly fog, thick enough to leave an aftertaste and a sensation of cement dust in the mouth. Residents wandered in the milky haze, many wearing surgical masks and dazed looks.

Dozens of flights were delayed Saturday as visibility dropped to about 350 yards at the city’s airports, after 140 flights were delayed the day before. The State Department has cautioned Americans against travel to Moscow.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations has called for volunteers to help fight the fires, acknowledging that the 10,000 or so firefighters deployed are overwhelmed and unable to attend to every fire — something residents of fire-stricken areas have been saying for days.

By Saturday, the village of Zaprudino was still standing, said Yulia A. Gavrikova, a spokeswoman for the ministry, though residents said a graveyard on the outskirts went up in smoke.

Mr. Medvedev, meanwhile, said he had established a private charitable fund for wildfire victims with an initial donation of 350,000 rubles, or about $11,740, of his own money.

Russians typically suffer far more from fires than people in most developed countries. In 2006, more than 17,000 people died in fires, nearly 13 for every 100,000 people — more than 10 times the rates in Western Europe and the United States.

This year’s wildfires are not extraordinary by Russian standards, having burned 1.8 million acres of land, according to the Ministry of Emergency Situations. By this time last year, the ministry said, fires had burned 2.3 million acres (compared with 2.05 million acres in the United States, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, in Idaho).

In a typical year, however, fires consume large tracts of remote Siberian forests, with little impact elsewhere. This year, by contrast, with the intense heat and drought in the Western regions, a larger number of relatively small fires are burning in densely occupied areas, like those in and around Moscow.

The hotter weather left the forest more prone to burn with a casually flicked cigarette or cinders from a tipped barbeque, while the number of fire sources in remote areas was no greater than in previous years.

Mr. Putin, who rarely responds to criticism, felt compelled to answer a posting on the Web site of the Echo of Moscow radio station. In it, a resident of a village in the Tver region wrote that under the Communists, “there were three fire ponds in the village, a bell that tolled when a fire began, and — guess what — a fire truck.”

Mr. Putin, visiting a village in the Nizhny Novgorod region where 11 people had died in a fire, got a firsthand view of the rising anger over the fire response. When he waded into a crowd to discuss a plan for monetary compensation, a woman yelled in anger.

“You didn’t do anything, everything is burning, don’t make promises,” the woman said, according to a video of the encounter posted on the Internet. Mr. Putin said he could do nothing now, as the village had already burned. “We asked for help. We trusted you. Why didn’t anybody do anything?” the woman said.

Mr. Putin responded by again describing the compensation plan. “We will spend 100,000 rubles for every person, every member of the family,” he said, and said local authorities would match that sum, about $3,300.

At this village, though hardly at every fire-damaged site, crews had already arrived to clear the rubble and begin reconstruction.

BBC: Health warning over Moscow smog from wildfires (8 August 2010, 08:15 GMT)
People living in the Russian capital have begun leaving as smog continues to smother the city.
Medical experts have warned people in Moscow to stay inside and wear protective masks to counter the pollution.

The wildfires that have killed 52 people are still sweeping across central Russia as weather forecasters warn the country’s worst heat wave in decades would continue for the next few days.

Please listen to this BBC report from Moscow, Saturday, 7 August 2010:

Germany sends respirator masks to smog-choked Moscow
Germany said it would fly 100,000 respirator masks to Moscow as air pollution from nearby forest fires rises to increasingly unbearable levels for residents.

The German Interior Ministry also promised additional equipment to help Russian emergency services fight some 840 separate blazes. Hoses, pumps and electricity generators were being assembled ready for transport late on Saturday.

“The respirator masks are a first part of this help,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. “The civil defense authorities of the Russian federation have also asked for the provision of heavy technical equipment for the fire fighting.

“We continue to keep in close contact with the Russian authorities and the Russian embassy in Berlin and we will help where we are able to help,” he added.

State air-pollution monitoring service Mosekomonitoring said that carbon-monoxide levels in the Moscow air were now 6.6 times higher than acceptable levels. In parts of the capital, visibility has been reduced to less than 50 meters with the smog not expected to lift until at least Wednesday.

‘Truly extreme situation’

Leading Russian doctor Ivan Yurlov, from the organization League for the Nation’s Health, expressed his concern to the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant.

“The situation is truly extreme. People are in circumstances under which they should not have to live,” said Yurlov.

Residents were warned to stay indoors or leave the city altogether. Foreign package tours were sold out and there was a rush for trains tickets and planes out of Moscow, news agencies reported.

Doctors warned of serious health problems, with hundreds of people arriving at hospitals complaining of smog-related ailments.

On city streets, people have tried to make breathing more bearable with masks of their own, including makeshift solutions such as damp towels and surgical masks. Simple surgical masks were of no help, city health official Leonid Lazebnik warned.

Worst recorded heat wave

The smoke has even penetrated the city’s metro system, hose tunnels lie up to 85 meters under the surface. The situation is being exacerbated by the worst heat wave in the Moscow region since records began 130 years ago.

Around 7,000 troops have been drafted in to fight the fires alongside emergency services, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Military personnel dug an 8-kilometer (5-mile) trench to help prevent the fire from reaching a nuclear arms site in the Niznhy Novgorod region, Russian radio station Echo Moskvy reported on Saturday.

The fires have killed more than 50 people, according to government figures, although aid agencies expect the final death toll will be far higher. Hundreds have been injured, with thousands made homeless.

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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