GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

11 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes: 11 August

The latest MODIS scenes are showing a wind shift and a relief of the skome haze situation due to clouds with rain showers for Moscow

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

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According to the latest satellite-derived analysis provided by the Sukachev Institute for Forest (Krasnoyarsk) the total area burned per Region by 10 August:

  • Moscow Region: 34 281 ha

  • Vladimir Region: 74 202 ha

  • Nizhni Novgorod Region: 253 420  ha

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 10 August:

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.

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Latest (11 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)

10 August, 2010
According  to  the wildfire situation report of 10 August 2010 a total of
578  fires affected 11,933 ha forested and  17,266 ha non-forested lands.
114 fires of them were reported as new fires.
An except 167 fires were put out the same day they have been discovered.

Through all of Russia 14,476 people, 56 aircraft, 2,598 bulldozers, tractors and engines have
been involved in fire fighting.

Since  the  beginning  of  the 2010 fire season a total of 26,400 fires
affected 754,987 ha forested and 239,637 ha non-forested lands of the Forest Fund of Russia.

Most fires have been reported in the following regions:
Sverdlovsk region – 76
Kirovsk region – 51
Moscow region – 16
Komi republic – 86
Perm region – 49

There are large fires in following regions:
Ivanovo region – 6 fires,burning area 17,325 ha forested landsand and 2,218 ha non-forested lands.
Vladivir region – 6 fires,burning area 1,680 ha forested lands.
Ryazan region – 15 fires,burning area 90,499 ha forested lands and 6,620 ha non-forested lands.
Mari el republic – 9 fires,burning area 16,641 ha forested lands and 480 ha non-forested lands.
Sverdlovsk region – 15 fires,burning area 18,096 ha forested lands.

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

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

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

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

ru_fire_legend.gif (937 Byte)

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Map legend

Administrative boundaries

Latest maps maps showing fire activities of  09 August 2010 (selection):

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

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

NOTE: No regional maps for 10 August available.

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Nizhni Novgorod Region Nizhni Novgorod Region Nizhni Novgorod Region

More maps of other regions are available on request:

News from the media:

Situation with forest fires on the territory of the Russian Federation according to the information received at 06:00 Moscow time 11 August 2010290 islands of fires appeared during the day. 314 islands of fire were put out. 612 islands of fire continue to be active on the total area of 92 702.81 ha. There are 56 big islands of fire on the area of 58 765.42 ha, including 31 islands of peat fires.

In total 26 509 islands of natural fires appeared on the territory of the Russian Federation since the beginning of the fire hazardous period 2010 on the total area of 810 803.75 ha, including 1104 peat fires on the total area of 1 759.9 ha.

165 714 people and 26 542 items of equipment (39 aircrafts), including 129 171 people and 19 341 items of equipment (26 aircrafts) EMERCOM of Russia were engaged in the fire extinguishing operation.

551 people and 100 items of equipment, including 13 aircrafts (6 planes and 7 helicopters) were engaged in the fire extinguishing operation from the foreign states.

Track Russian forest fire data online

Gone are the days of having to rely on carefully chosen statistics doled out by a government agency or news reporter in the event of a crisis.

Readily available satellite data and visualization tools online have made it possible for anyone to observe massive changes happening on a global scale. Of course, that data is only available insofar as government agencies with satellites have made their data available.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the USDA Forest Service provide information for interested people looking to see the latest on U.S. wildfires.

Now the European Space Agency is using its collected satellite data to provide nearly real-time data on the forest fires engulfing Moscow through its ATSR World Fire Atlas. It also has maps of world area hot spots on the European Space Agency Ionia Web site. Registration, which is free, will also garner you access to past data.

Armchair analysts can also view the changes in temperature and air quality thanks to NASA. NASA’s Earth Observatory on Wednesday posted a map of carbon monoxide data for the Russia Federation that covers August 1 to 8.

The week prior, NASA posted a map of temperature anomalies for the Russian Federation for the week of July 20 to 27. The map compared data for the same week in 2010 to the years 2000 to 2008.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Web site is offering a look at the polluting effects of the burn. Data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA’s Aqua spacecraft allows a comparisons of air quality over the Russian Federation at 18,000 feet for July 21 versus August 1.

Of course, readers need to be cognizant of what it is they’re looking at.

In the case of the carbon monoxide maps from NASA, for example, the data was collected from the MOPITT (Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere) sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite. It collects carbon monoxide readings for Earth’s atmosphere between 2 and 8 kilometers above ground. It’s not necessarily indicative of ground-level exposure, which could be higher or lower for a specific given area, according to NASA.

The general public also benefits from those industrious citizens taking it upon themselves to post publicly available data in new ways.

Andy Lintner, a software developer from Royal Oak, Mich., for example combined tools from Google Maps with NOAA satellite tracking data so that his wife could better visualize how large the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had become. Lintner shared it with friends and then decided to post his tool as a Web site,, so that anyone with an Internet connection could virtually layer the spill parameters over any geographical location. Source:

Russia’s forest fire death toll rises to 53

MOSCOW, August 11 (Itar-Tass) –The death toll in Russian forest fires has risen to 53, the Ministry of Health and Social Development said on Wednesday, August 11.

A total of 806 people have requested medical attention, 706 people were treated as outpatients and 58 were hospitalised. Fifty-three people died.

Infirmaries have been set up at all temporary accommodation centres and medical personnel stay on duty 24 hours a day.

“As of now, no requests have been received for additional medicines or personnel to regional health facilities,” the ministry said.

As of 19:00 August 10, 1,276 people affected by wildfires have been issued new health insurance policies in place of the lost ones.

Forest fires are raging in 22 regions. The situation is particularly alarming in the Belgorod, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Lipetsk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan, and Tambov regions, Mordovia, and Chuvashia.

Chernobyl, Fires and Radiation

There are some heated headlines out there as fires spring up in the zone contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster. The reality, according to specialists in environmental risk from fires and radiation, is that any radiation contained in the resulting smoke and other emissions is very unlikely to pose a significant health risk [*with one exception possibly being in firefighters working in the area; see below].

This very question came up two years ago when Chadwick Oliver of Yale University and other forest experts warned that the risk of uncontrollable wildfires in the region was growing. In May 2000, hundreds of firefighters fought a big peat fire in the region. Belarus officials concluded there was no rise in radiation levels. In an e-mail exchange at the time, Robert Barish,a health physicist and radiation consultant, sent the following input on radiation risk from forest fires:

With respect to your question, in the case of forest fires, there is remobilization of radioactive materials that have been deposited into the plant material. The risks however, depend strongly on two factors:

First is how much of the deposited material has actually been taken up by the trees/plants themselves. Some studies have shown that there is a competing pathway for other minerals like potassium that lower the concentration of cesium and strontium in the plant material to levels that are significantly lower than they might be otherwise. Also some of the material is leached back into the soil.

The second is the dispersal pattern. It is the latter that leads to a very significant dilution of any radioactivity as it is spread through huge volumes of air, thus significantly reducing its concentration.

A paper from the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology showed an estimated inhalation dose of 1/10,000 to 1/100,000 of background levels to firefighters confronting a wildfire near the Chernobyl site:

Forest fires in the territory contaminated as a result of the Chernobyl accident: radioactive aerosol resuspension and exposure of fire-fighters

V. A. Kashparov, S. M. Lundina, A. M. Kadygriba, V. P. Protsaka, S. E. Levtchuka, V. I. Yoschenkoa, V. A. Kashpurb and N. M. Talerko

Journal of Environmental Radioactivity Volume 51, Issue 3, December 2000, Pages 281-298

I’ve sent a fresh query to a group of forest, fire and health researchers to get more input on this question.

[* Barish sent a followup e-mail message tonight adding a cautionary note about possible health issues for firefighters facing fires in the contaminated zone:

Vasily Yoschenko in Kiev is an excellent resource for information about the present situation…. Yoschenko and Kashparov are the two “local” experts on this….

From my own, less than expert perspective, there is no question that forest fires will cause remobilization of the radioactive materials, as I stated in 2008. Also, the dispersal pattern is still the major influence on the airborne concentration of these radioactive materials.

Yoschenko published more detailed data in 2005 and 2006 than I cited in the Kashparov reference from five years earlier. Obviously my quote from the 2000 paper is valid, but more up-to-date information can come from the two Russians. In a 2006 paper, Yoschenko stated that: The radionuclide fallout along the plume axis is negligible in comparison to the existing contamination. However, the additional inhalation dose for firemen exposed in the affected area can reach the level of the additional external irradiation in the period of their mission.

What this means is that the airborne radioactivity can essentially double the dose to the fire personnel from inhalation of the radioactive materials. i.e., they are being irradiated both from outside and inside whereas the “normal” radiation exposure is only external when you are in the Chernobyl zone. The airborne contamination doesn’t much change the existing amount on the ground ( it goes up and then comes back down) but, as previously noted, it might disperse over greater distances, albeit at lower concentrations because of dilution.] Source:

Russia praises Bulgaria’s fire-fighting assistance

Although the total number of wildfires in the Moscow region has been substantially reduced, 188.2 hectares of forests and peat bogs are still burning outside the Russian capital. Almost 5,000 people are involved in fire-fighting operations, including a group from Bulgaria.

A group of 95 Bulgarian firefighters is currently involved in extinguishing fires outside Moscow. We formed three brigades – two of them were sent to Noginsk and the third one is working in the Orekhovo-Zuyevsky district. Another 46 people are assisting in fighting forest and peat bog fires in the town of Likino-Dulyovo, successfully preventing the flames from spreading to houses.

In the morning of August 10th, the head of Bulgarian firefighters in Russia, Chief Inspector Valentin Angelov, held a conversation with Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov who conveyed thanks from the republic’s Prime Minister Boiko Borissov for their contribution to rescue operations. The Russian government is also most grateful to firemen from Bulgaria, according to Plamen Grozdanov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to Russia. The Bulgarian Embassy in Moscow continues to receive letters and telegrams of appreciation from both the leadership and ordinary residents of fire-affected areas in the Moscow region.

The European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva said Bulgaria is ready to “accept for rehabilitation Russian children and firemen who have been hurt by the blaze.” When meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, in his turn, said the following: “We are sending 10,000 children in need of medical care or treatment, primarily for lung problems, to one of Moscow’s summer camps for children at the Bulgarian resort of Kamchia.” Source:

Russian Fires stoke fear of radiation

Russian emergency workers have increased forest patrols in a western region previously contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, trying to prevent wildfires from spreading harmful radiation, officials say.
At least six wildfires were spotted in the Bryansk region this week – the part of Russia that suffered the most from the Chernobyl catastrophe in what was then Soviet Ukraine – and fire crews quickly extinguished all of them, Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Irina Yegorushkina said. Her agency also had reported sporadic wildfires last week, saying all had been put out.
Radiation experts from Moscow conducted a thorough check of the Bryansk area, which borders Belarus and Ukraine, and concluded there has been no increase in radiation levels, she said.
Large forested areas in Bryansk were contaminated when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s Reactor No 4 exploded during a pre-dawn test on April 26, 1986, spewing radioactive clouds over much of the western Soviet Union and northern Europe.
Radioactive particles settled into the soil, and environmentalists have warned that they could be thrown up into the air once again by wildfires and blown into other areas by the wind.
Russia’s Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu acknowledged the danger last week, and his department says they are taking all precautions.
“We had several fires, but the situation here is not as difficult as in the areas around Moscow,” Yegorushkina told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The chief of the Bryansk forest protection service said his agency had increased patrols around the forests, particularly in the southwest section affected by Chernobyl.
“There is a danger, but we are controlling the situation,” agency chief Vladimir Rozinkevich told the AP.
Vasily Tuzov, a deputy head of the federal forest protection service, said wildfires engulfed a total of some 3,900 hectares in several regions of Russia hit by the Chernobyl fallout, including the Bryansk region, but most of them have been put out.
He said it wasn’t immediately clear whether any of the fires had spread any radioactive particles into previously unpolluted areas.
“Our workers will need to conduct measurements to determine that,” Tuzov told the AP. “All we know now is that there have been fires in the areas with higher radiation levels.”
Greenpeace and other environmental groups say radioactive dust from the Chernobyl disaster could be harmful even though doses will likely be small.
A top Russian forest expert said that the mixture of radioactive elements that remained in the forest floor in the affected regions remains dangerous.
“A cloud may come up with soot and spread over a huge territory,” said Alexander Isayev of the Moscow-based Center for Forest Ecology and Productivity.
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In Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it had no comment on the radioactive dangers posed by the wildfires.
Hundreds of wildfires sparked by the hottest summer ever recorded in Russia have engulfed large areas around Moscow and other parts of western Russia, cloaking the Russian capital in suffocating smog for a week. The death rate in Moscow has doubled to 700 people a day, morgues are overflowing and residents are desperately seeking ways to counter soaring temperatures and acrid smoke.
About 165,000 workers and 39 firefighting aircraft were battling more than 600 blazes nationwide Wednesday over more than 90,000 hectares, the Emergency Ministry said. Source:

Moscow freed of fire smog

The toxic smog that has shrouded Moscow for nearly a week lifted on Wednesday after winds and rain overnight, but meteorologists warned the noxious pollution from peat and forest fires raging round the capital was likely to return within 24 hours.

Russian firefighters are still battling to contain the fires sparked by the country’s worst heatwave since records began. The smog from peat and forest fires that tripled in size over the weekend has been choking the capital, forcing many to flee and doubling death rates in the city, hitting the elderly and those with bronchial and heart problems.

Russia’s emergencies ministry said on Wednesday that it had intensified its battle against the wildfires overnight and almost halved the area hit by fires across a huge swathe of European Russia from 1,740 square kilometres the day before to 927 square kilometres.

The cataclysmic conditions have caused economists to warn the intense heatwave could wipe off one per cent of Russia’s economc growth forecast. Nearly one third of Russia’s forecast harvest has been destroyed, while businesses have closed or sent home staff due to the heat and smog.

A ministry official said that emergency forces had stepped up the water bombardment of the blazes with firefighting amphibious planes in the Saratov, Samara, Tambov and Vladimirskaya regions, as well as in the Mari-El Republic, and achieved “significant results” and said they were now turning their attention to the Moscow and Ryazan regions.

But ecologists warned that fires had been breaking out in regions still polluted from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster more than 20 years ago, potentially sending harmful radioactive particles into the air and expanding the zone of pollution.

An official from Roslesozaschita, the federal forestry agency, said on Wednesday that 28 fires across a territory of 269 hectares had broken out in contaminated areas of the Bryansk region, about 250 miles southwest of Moscow, which ecologists say was worst hit by the fallout of the Chernobyl disaster. The official said other contaminated regions such as Kaluzhskaya, Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, Tula, Orlovskaya and Penza had also been hit, though these regions contain much lower degrees of contamination.

But Vladimir Chuprov of the Moscow Greenpeace office said that the weak winds in Bryansk meant there was little chance of the pollution zone spreading as far as Moscow or western Europe. “The spread of radionuclides is probable only in the range of a few dozen kilometres from the fire. It is possible that firefighters and local residents could be hit with small doses of radiation. But this is not deadly and will not lead to invalidity,” he said.

The Moscow city government’s ecological research centre said that radiation levels in Moscow remained normal.

The director of the state weather forecasting centre, Roman Vilfand said smog was soon due to return to Moscow while fires continued to burn in the region. “As soon as there is windless weather again, the smoke will return,” he said. “It has gotten easier in Moscow but not where the fires are burning.”Source:

Russia’s peatland fires seen burning for months

OSLO (Reuters) – Some of Russia’s smog-causing peatland fires are likely to burn for months, part of a global problem of drained marshes that emit climate-warming greenhouse gases, experts said on Wednesday.

Novel carbon markets could offer a long-term fix for peat bogs, from Indonesia to South Africa, if negotiators of a U.N. climate treaty can agree ways to pay to safeguard marshes that are often drained to make way for farms, roads or homes.

“Peat fires continue underground and…they will not be extinguished in Russia before winter rains and snow set in,” said Hans Joosten, professor of peatland studies and paleoecology at the University of Greifswald in Germany.

To put out fires “you must inundate the area completely,” he said, adding that one peat fire in South Africa near the border with Botswana, for instance, had smoldered for 5 years. Peat is formed from partly decayed vegetation.

Environmental group Wetlands International estimated 80 to 90 percent of the smog in Moscow was from peatland fires near the capital, rather than forest fires linked to what weather officials call Russia’s hottest summer in a millennium.

“In Russia, peat fires can sometimes last under snow cover through the winter,” said Ilkka Vanha-Majamaa, a scientist at the Finnish Forestry Research Institute.

Water dumped from planes, part of Russia’s response, is rarely enough to halt peat fires, said Alex Kaat, spokesman for Wetlands International. Moscow has pledged more action to extinguish the blazes.

“Russia promised the same after peat fires in 2002 and nothing was done,” Kaat said, saying past efforts to use water from the Volga River to soak peatlands had been half-hearted.


Russia has the largest national carbon emissions from peatland destruction after Indonesia, according to Wetlands International.

And the U.N. panel of climate experts warned Moscow of problems of global warming and peat in its last report in 2007.

“During dry years, catastrophic fires are expected on drained peatlands in European Russia,” it said, calling for a restoration of water supplies to reverse drainage.

Peat releases carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, as it dries out. Peat is also often cut and used as a low-grade fuel.

Joosten, who is also secretary general of the International Mire Conservation Group, said there were 500,000 sq km (193,100 sq miles) of drained peatlands in the world — the size of Spain. “To my mind that is 500,000 sq km too much,” he said.

Wetlands International estimates that drained peatlands account for 6 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from human sources. The U.N. climate panel says global warming stokes desertification, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels.

Joosten said current projects for re-wetting peatlands in Belarus and Ukraine were attracting interest from investors in voluntary carbon dioxide markets. But such credits were worth only a few euros per tonne of avoided emissions.

A problem is in agreeing how much a peat bog emits.

A hectare (2.47 acres) of drained peatland in central Europe, used for agriculture, probably emits about 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from continuing decay, Joosten said.

But natural peat marshes emit methane, another powerful greenhouse gas, so protecting peat does not eliminate emissions. Joosten estimated an intact hectare of wet peat emits the equivalent of 10-15 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. Source:

Russia admits fires hit Chernobyl land

MOSCOW — Russia on Wednesday admitted wildfires hit hundreds of hectares of land contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster as anger grew over the slack official response to its worst ever heatwave.

The smog from the wildfires that triggered a public health crisis which descended for days over Moscow dissipated as the authorities claimed the total area on fire in Russia had halved over the last 24 hours.

But concerns remained over the environment in the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine and Belarus, whose soil is still contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, as the authorities acknowledged the area had been hit by the fires.

The Roslesozashchita state forest watchdog said in a statement on its website that according to data from August 6, in the Bryansk region alone 28 fires covering an area of 269 hectares were recorded on the radioactive lands.

Some officials had previously denied the existence of any fires in the region.

“There are maps of the (nuclear) contamination, there are maps of the fires. Anyone can put the two together. Why deny this information?” a Roslesozashchita official told the Interfax news agency.

But the watchdog’s deputy director Alexei Bobrinsky told AFP: “There is no reason for panic.”

Gennady Onishchenko, head of Russia’s health protection agency, also urged against panic.

“There is pollution in the northwest of the Bryansk region but it’s background contamination and there was a fire outbreak only in one area,” he told the Echo of Moscow radio.

The total area enflamed by wildfires in central Russia had fallen by half since Tuesday, but there were still hundreds of wildfires raging, the emergencies ministry said.

Fires covering an area of 92,700 hectares (more than 350 square miles) were blazing in Russia, almost half of Tuesday’s figure of 174,000 hectares, it said in a statement.

But 612 fires were still ablaze, up from 557 reported on Tuesday.

The spokesman for the governor of the Moscow region said a full plan had been worked out to flood peat bogs in the Moscow region. Left over from the Soviet era, they burned in the fires and helped create the smog.

“The plan will be realised once the forest and peat fires have been managed,” Andrei Barkovsky told the Echo of Moscow radio.

The national air pollution monitoring service Mosekomonitoring said carbon monoxide levels in Moscow did not exceed acceptable levels after smog over the weekend sparked a major health alert.

“Today and tomorrow we are expecting a stable situation,” spokeswoman Elena Lezina told AFP.

The smoke from wildfires and burning peat bogs in central Russia, amid the worst heatwave in decades, had for days seeped into apartments, offices, stores and even underground into the Moscow metro.

Muscovites fled the city in droves, while several leading industrial firms have shut down production to spare their workers the high temperatures, sending them on vacation.

Many Russians lay the blame for the disaster on the government but the authorities have rejected criticism that they were poorly prepared.

Moscow authorities acknowledged for the first time on Monday that due to the heatwave the city’s daily mortality rate had doubled and morgues were overflowing with bodies.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had the day earlier taken to the air in a water bombing jet to douse fires in one of the worst hit regions but his trip left some unimpressed.

“His PR engineers can think of nothing more other than to yet again sit him behind the controls of an aircraft,” leading business daily Vedomosti commented bitterly.

The usually staunchly pro-Kremlin daily Moskovsky Komsomolets said sarcastically: “They are fighting the fires, having allowed these fires right from the start to reach a catastrophic magnitude.” Source: AFP

Russia’s Fires Cause “Brown Cloud,” May Hit Arctic

Date: 11-Aug

Russia's Fires Cause
A boat travels along the Moskva River shrouded by heavy smog, caused by peat fires in nearby forests, in Moscow August 9, 2010.
Photo: Reuters/Alex Aminev

Smoke from forest fires smothering Moscow adds to health problems of “brown clouds” from Asia to the Amazon and Russian soot may stoke global warming by hastening a thaw of Arctic ice, environmental experts say.

“Health effects of such clouds are huge,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, chair of a U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) study of “brown clouds” blamed for dimming sunlight in cities such as Beijing or New Delhi and hitting crop growth in Asia.

The clouds — a haze of pollution from cars or coal-fired power plants, forest fires and wood and other materials burned for cooking and heating — are near-permanent and blamed for causing chronic respiratory and heart diseases.

“In Asia just the indoor smoke — because people cook with firewood — causes over a million deaths a year,” Ramanathan, of the University of California, San Diego, told Reuters.

Moscow’s top health official said on Monday that about 700 people were dying every day, twice as many as in normal weather, as Russia grapples with its worst heat wave in 130 years.

“The Russian fires are in principle similar to what you see from other brown clouds,” said Henning Rodhe of Stockholm University, a vice-chair of the UNEP Atmospheric Brown Cloud study. “The difference is that this only lasts a few weeks.”

Asian pollution has been blamed for dusting Himalayan glaciers with black soot that absorbs more heat than reflective snow and ice and so speeds a thaw. Worldwide, however, the polluting haze blocks out sunlight and so slows climate change.

For the climate, “the main concern … is what impact the Russian smoke would have on the Arctic, in terms of black carbon and other (particles) in the smoke settling on the sea ice,” Ramanathan said.


In past years “we have had episodes of biomass burning that have brought clouds in over the Arctic,” said Kim Holmen, director of research at the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Holmen, who runs a pollution monitoring station in Svalbard in the high Arctic, said the air over Russia was fairly stable in recent days, concentrating smoke over land. But a shift in winds, easing pollution in Moscow, could sweep smog northwards.

Arctic sea ice, which shrinks in mid-September to an annual minimum before the winter freeze, now covers a slightly bigger area than in 2007 and 2008, the smallest extents since satellite measurements began in the 1970s.

The exposure of Arctic Ocean water to sunlight is a threat to the livelihoods of Arctic peoples and creatures such as polar bears. It also accelerates global warming, blamed by the U.N. panel of climate experts on mankind’s use of fossil fuels.

“Such conditions are likely to become more common in the future,” Rodhe said of the Russian heatwave and related fires.

Asia is most studied for brown clouds but they also form over parts of North America, Europe, the Amazon basin and southern Africa. Burning of savannah in sub-Saharan Africa, to clear land for crops, is a new source.

Forest and peat bog fires are burning over 1,740 sq kms (672 sq mile), the Russian Emergencies Ministry said. By contrast, official Brazilian data show the Amazon rainforest lost 1,810 sq kms in almost a year to June 2010.

Holmen also echoed Russian authorities’ worries that the fires may also release radioactive elements locked in vegetation since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.

Radioactive isotopes include strontium 90 and caesium 137. Other industrial pollutants such as PCBs could also be freed. Source:

Soldiers Lay A Water Pipeline In The Vladimir Region

Date: 11-Aug

Soldiers Lay A Water Pipeline In The Vladimir Region

Soldiers lay a water pipeline through the forest in an attempt to extinguish forest fires in the Vladimir region, some 200 km (124 miles) east of Moscow, August 10, 2010.Russia’s deadly summer heatwave could wipe up to $14 billion (8 billion pounds) off economic growth, economists said Tuesday, as wildfires raged on in several provinces and forecasters said sweltering weather won’t abate this week. Source:

Russia’s heatwave threatens economy Russia heatwave

A woman sits surrounded by the remains of her house in the village of Mokhovoye, some 130km from Moscow. Source: AFP

Russia faces 15 billion dollar heatwave


Russian soldier puts out a forest fire some 130 kilometers from Moscow in Beloomut on August 1, 2010. Firefighters fought an uphill battle against spreading forest fires that have already killed 30 people, destroyed thousands of homes and mobilised hundreds of thousands of emergency workers. The emergency ministry said that forest fires had engulfed more than 114,000 hectares across Russia. It mobilised almost 240,000 emergency workers to fight the blazes, along with 2,000 members of the armed forces. AFP PHOTO / ARTYOM KOROTAYEV Source: AFP

RUSSIA is starting to count the losses of the worst heatwave in its history, with economists saying the weather may cost the economy billions of dollars and undercut a modest economic revival.

While it will may take months for the Government to release official estimates of the heatwave-related damages, several economists said the disaster might cost Russia between 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent of this year’s gross domestic product (GDP), or roughly $US7 billion ($7.63 billion) to $US15 billion.

Alexander Morozov, chief economist for HSBC bank in Russia, said the abnormal heatwave, including a severe drought, forest fires and the ensuing smog, will be a significant factor eroding growth as Russia recovers from the economic crisis.

“Economic growth in Russia is slowing and the heatwave will lead to a further slowdown,” Mr Morozov told AFP, estimating the immediate losses from the fires and the smog at 1 per cent of this year’s GDP, or around $US15 billion.

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That number accounts for immediate losses in the agriculture, industrial and services sectors and does not take into account any indirect losses that would stem from a spike in deaths and illnesses, he said.

The International Monetary Fund said this month that recovery in Russia from deep recession remained fragile but appeared to be gaining momentum, putting this year’s growth at 4.25 per cent and 2011 at 4 per cent.

The Russian economy contracted a very sharp 7.9 per cent last year as key energy exports were hit by the global economic slump, sending the country into a painful reverse after years of buoyant expansion.

Several leading Russian industrial firms have shut down production for the heatwave to spare their workers the consequences of the high temperatures and sent employees on vacation.

Moscow authorities acknowledged for the first time on Monday that due to the heatwave the city’s daily mortality rate had doubled and morgues were overflowing with bodies.

The Federal Government has yet to confirm that statistics.

Worst hit has been agriculture.

“The drought will likely cause a 30-33 per cent drop in the grain harvest – mostly wheat – this year. Other agricultural goods get adversely affected too,” Mr Morozov said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday slashed the country’s wheat harvest by a third to 60-65 million tonnes.

He shocked international markets last week by announcing that from August 15 his country would ban exports to keep prices down at home.

The noxious smoke has forced Russians to flee the capital in droves and aviation officials said more than 100,000 people left Moscow by air on Sunday alone – a record number for the current year.

Economists said it was too early to estimate the long-term losses but admitted they could be big as the drought was likely to boost inflation further by squeezing the supply of agricultural products on the market. Source:

Uphill battle for volunteer firefighters in Russia

Muscovites answer villages’ calls for help
Volunteers fought a forest fire outside Gora yesterday. The Russian government says it does not have enough firefighters.
Volunteers fought a forest fire outside Gora yesterday. The Russian government says it does not have enough firefighters

GORA, Russia — They dug and piled sand with primitive shovels into thin yellow firebreaks. They sprayed water from hand-pumped plastic spray cans to beat down hissing, seething flames. They coughed and swore in the thick, acrid smoke as they cut away fallen branches to prevent them from exploding into fire. They fought a seemingly one-sided battle with an underground conflagration that threatened a stretch of pine woods precariously close to the village of Gora, about 70 miles southeast of Moscow.

They were a dozen volunteers among a motley army of amateur firefighters who have fanned out across Russia, drawn by desperate calls for help from remote villages. They march into danger armed with the most rudimentary firefighting equipment, no protective gear, and little more than a desire to help.

“We are trying to stop this fire from getting to that village,’’ said Alexei Nekrasov, a Muscovite like all of the volunteers who had come to Gora. “And if it blows, we won’t have time to make it out of here.’’

The Russian government has said that it does not have enough firefighters to battle nearly 600 wildfires fueled by the worst heat wave ever recorded here. Military units dispatched to battle the blazes are underequipped. The blazes have consumed villages, woods, fields, and cottages across western Russia, killed more than 50 people, and blanketed much of the region with a noxious pall that burns the eyes and irritates the throat.

The ultimate toll of the smog and heat may be much greater: A Moscow medical official said that the daily death rate in the city has doubled to 700 in the heat and smog. Fires were nearing the Urals town of Ozyorsk, home of a nuclear facility that in 1957 was the site of an explosion that Greenpeace calls the second-worst in history after Chernobyl. The fear is that the blaze will kick up radioactive particles buried in the dust — nature’s own dirty bomb.

Cries for help, cataloged on websites set up by concerned citizens, sounded from across Western Russia.

“Much of the village has burned,’’ read one.

“Urgent! We need fire extinguishers, pumps, and hoses!’’ came another appeal.

“We need shovels,’’ read an appeal from Polbino, the center of the region that includes Gora. Alexander Bobin and Slava Fomin of Moscow read it. They brought shovels, camouflage pants, boots, and masks to join Nekrasov’s impromptu platoon.

“I saw the pictures and read that people were needed,’’ Bobin said.

The military had sent in a tracked vehicle to plow a path for trucks that also serves as a firebreak. But the peat under the soil smolders, passing on to roots that travel under the firebreaks. The roots burn, the pine trees fall, the exposed wood crackles into flames.

“This is pointless,’’ Nekrasov said as a few volunteers tried to put out a small fire burning in the trunk of a fallen spruce. Covered in ash, exhausted, their masks black from the soot they were trying not to inhale, they squeezed out water from their extinguishers in pathetic little streams to the plaintive honking of the hand pumps.

Years ago, Russia had 70,000 forest rangers, whose job was to look after the woods, making sure there were firebreaks, pruning overgrowth, clearing away debris. But now there are just 12,000. Nekrasov pointed out a few old firebreaks that were overgrown by brush.

State-run media have sought to portray the government’s response to the wildfires as resolute — President Dmitry Medvedev traveling the country, upbraiding local officials; Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promising more than $6,000 to any family that has lost its property; the country’s minister for emergencies, Sergei Shoigu, vowing to extinguish the blazes within the week.

And Muscovites breathed a sigh of relief Monday when health officials announced that the air was only two times more polluted than acceptable levels, down from seven times on Sunday.

Still, the fires burn.

Yulya Borisova, her face black with grime, her T-shirt proclaiming her “100 percent real man,’’ sprayed a fire that spat and sizzled, evaporating the sprinkle before it could cool the blaze.

“It is dangerous,’’ Nekrasov said. “Any minute a tree could fall on your head. “

In a moment everyone saw what he meant. A gust of wind, a sudden whoosh, and a tall birch next to the road exploded into bright streams of red and orange. Followed by a pine. And another.

A firetruck pulled up. The chief firefighter watched the blaze, then decided not to fight it. It was too dangerous, he said. The truck might get caught in the fire.

“No, guys. This is hopeless,’’ Nekrasov said. Then he grabbed his watering can and stalked off into the woods, leading his volunteers back toward the blaze. Source:

FIFA Monitors Russia Wildfires as World Cup Bid Inspection Looms; Putin Meeting

FIFA tells INSIDER its inspection of Russia’s 2018 World Cup bid will go ahead next week, despite few signs of a slowdown in wildfire outbursts that are sending toxic smog over Moscow.

Wildfires in a number of regions surrounding Moscow have raised carbon monoxide levels in the capital to 6.5 times acceptable limits, according to Russia’s health ministry.

The scorching heat and dry conditions over the past two weeks have triggered the country’s worst ever wildfires, with the hot weather and smoke belching from the burning peat bogs combining to almost double Moscow’s normal daily death rate to around 700 a day.

The FIFA commission, currently on a four-day inspection of the joint Holland-Belgium 2018 bid, is due to arrive in St. Petersburg on Monday to begin its evaluation of the Russia bid.

FIFA inspectors will visit Moscow on Tuesday where they are expected to meet with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin. The cities of Kazan and Sochi, the Black Sea resort hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, are also stops on the tour.

A FIFA spokesman told INSIDER there was no change to the schedule for the FIFA delegation visiting Russia Aug. 16 to 19. “Obviously, it is something that could change. We are monitoring the situation,” he said.

If the acrid smoke problems continue to cause problems in Moscow, Russia 2018 bid spokesman Andreas Herren told INSIDER the bid would provide “special arrangements” to make sure the FIFA team were exposed as little as possible to the smog.

A visit to Moscow’s iconic Luzhniki Stadium, the proposed venue for the opening match and final in Russia’s bid, is lined up as one of the highlights of the FIFA inspection trip.

“This is a situation which is being dealt with at a governmental level. At the moment we are progressing ahead as planned for the bid visit,” Herren said.

“Since three of the four venues are not in affected areas that helps a great deal. We are also in touch with FIFA.”

Four stadia in the Moscow area would stage World Cup games if Russia’s bid is successful; 13 new venues are planned across the country. The Russian government is set to invest billions in developing the country’s football stadia infrastructure.
Architectural image of the new stadium for St. Petersburg, first stop on the FIFA inspection tour (Russia 2018)Funding of new stadiums and renovations will also come from private investors and municipal sources.

Herren confirmed that the FIFA inspection group would visit the site of St. Petersburg’s 68,000-seater stadium on Monday.

During visits to Kazan and Sochi they will be briefed about plans for new stadium projects.

Plans in Sochi call for the legacy 25,000-capacity configuration of the Olympic Stadium for the 2014 Winter Games to be increased to 45,460 for the FIFA World Cup.

The bid team received a boost last Friday when South African president Jacob Zuma promised that his government would share its World Cup experiences to help preparations should Russia land the 2018 FIFA tournament.

“The FIFA World Cup left a legacy of nation building in South Africa, as well as valuable skills, infrastructure and other benefits,” Zuma was quoted by the South African Press Association as saying to the South Africa-Russia Business Council.

“Having experienced the benefits of such an event, we wish Russia the best of luck in its bid to host the World Cup tournament. South Africa is ready to share its experiences and project management skills if required.” Source:

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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