GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

12 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes:

MODIS Terra, 12 August

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

click here to enlarge (561 KB)


According to the latest satellite-derived analysis provided by the Sukachev Institute for Forest (Krasnoyarsk) the total area burned per Region by 11 August:

  • Moscow Region: 37 731 ha

  • Vladimir Region: 83 872 ha

  • Nizhni Novgorod Region: 271 975  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

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)

click to enlarge (29 KB)

Map legend

Administrative boundaries

Latest maps maps showing fire activities of  11 August 2010 (selection):

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

click here to enlarge (561 KB)


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.

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

Moscow Region

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Nizhni Novgorod Region

More maps of other regions are available on request:

News from the media:

Russia counts environmental cost of wildfires

Without better forest management, country can expect further uncontrolled fires in the future.

Wildfires are hitting urban areas of Russia.SERGEI CHIRIKOV/EPA/Photoshot

As fires sweep across Russia during its hottest and driest summer on record, the country is facing a multitude of public-health and environmental disasters — including the risk of radioactive particles being released from contaminated land around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

Here, Nature explores the scale of the devastation, and the dangers the fires still pose.

How bad is the situation?

More than 300,000 hectares of forest, vegetation and peat land have burned since the fires began in June. Some of the worst-affected areas are the Moscow region in the west of Russia, and the Nizhni Novgorod region southwest of Moscow, according to figures from the Global Fire Monitoring Centre (GFMC), part of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, based at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

According to ITAR TASS, the Russian state media, the ministry of health and social development says the death toll from the fires has risen to 53, with 806 people having requested medical attention.

Is this unprecedented?

No. Wildfires often occur in Russia. The GFMC says that more than 15 million hectares of forest and vegetative land have burned in fires in the Russian Federation already this year. Most are sparked by lightning in areas forested with fire-tolerant trees, which can withstand the worst of a fire, such as pine (Pinus). Such fires are often beneficial to the functioning of the ecosystem, and forests usually regrow quickly after them.

So why the fuss?

The current fires are burning in more urban areas, and in places populated by trees that are not fire tolerant, such as birch (Betula). They are also reaching gardens and vegetable patches, says Johann Goldammer, a fire ecologist and director of the GFMC. “Many poor people will lose their harvest, which they need to survive the winter,” he says. Long-term health effects from inhaling the smoke are another concern, he adds. Carbon monoxide pollution has risen to 10 times above the maximum permitted levels, he says, in large part due to burning organic matter in dried-out peat bogs. The forests will grow back naturally, says Goldammer, but it will take a long time, particularly for the slower-growing trees such as spruce (Picea).

The fires have also reached the Bryansk region, east of Chernobyl, the site of the nuclear power plant that exploded in 1986. This has raised fears that radioactive particles could be released into the atmosphere. Goldammer told Nature that he received unconfirmed reports on 11 August that 200 hectares in the region are alight.

Is there a radiation risk?

Not really. Jim Smith, who researches the fate of radioactivity in the environment at the University of Portsmouth, UK, says he is “not concerned” that the fires could lead to an increase in dangerous radiation. Most of the radioactive particles are in the soil rather than in the flammable leaf litter and trees, he explains. The fires that are currently burning are outside the 30-kilometre exclusion zone around Chernobyl, where the land is unlikely to be contaminated with α-particle-emitting isotopes — potentially the most damaging if inhaled.

There have already been around 100 fires in the exclusion zone since the Chernobyl accident, and studies have shown that this has resulted in an increase in radiation of less than 1%, says Smith. “Only a small amount of radiation gets re-suspended, so I’m not concerned about damage from inhalation,” he toldNature.

In a statement on 11 August, the Russian government said that radiation in the Bryansk region and its neighbouring areas is “normal”. But others are more worried. “I wouldn’t underestimate the exposure risk, as we know little about the health effects of a carbon monoxide and low-dose radiation combination”, said Vladimir Chouprov, an energy campaigner for Greenpeace Russia, in a statement.

Media reports say that fires encroaching on the nuclear research centre in the town of Snezhinsk, in the Urals region, have now been extinguished. Fire-fighting measures were stepped up in the town of Ozersk in the Chelyabinsk region where one of Russia’s largest nuclear-waste plants, Mayak, is based.

How did the fires start?

Goldammer says the fires were started by “negligent behaviour” on the part of members of the public, who lit barbecues and fireworks in forested areas. Russia has experienced its hottest summer in 130 years, with temperatures of 40 °C drying out vegetation and peat bogs, and making them a fire hazard.

Could the fires have been prevented?

Possibly. Legislation passed in January 2007 decentralized the management of the forests to local regions. Goldammer says that the authorities there have not taken adequate responsibility for managing and protecting the forests and peat lands, and that “investments in fire management have not been made”.

Will climate change make fire more likely?

Yes. If the climate in Russia continues to change as expected, the areas affected by the current fires will continue to be dry, making fires more likely in the future. That could prevent the forests from growing back and the area will turn to grassland — and so be even more vulnerable to wildfires, says Goldammer. Source:

Past Errors to Blame for Russia’s Peat FiresELEKTROGORSK, Russia — For two weeks, soldiers with chain saws felled every tree in sight.

Firefighters laid down a pipe to a nearby lake and pumped 100 gallons of water every minute, around the clock, until the surface of what is known as Fire No. 3 was a muddy expanse of charred stumps.

And still the fire burned on.

Under the surface, fire crept through a virtually impenetrable peat bog, spewing the smoke that — until the wind shifted on Thursday, providing what meteorologists said was likely to be temporary relief —had been choking the Russian capital this summer.

Among all the troubles that have been visited on Russia in this summer of record heat, wildfires, smoke and crop failure, perhaps none have been so persistent and impervious to remedy as the peat fires. Particularly maddening, many here say, is the knowledge that the problem is caused by humans.

As early as 1918 Soviet engineers drained swamps to supply peat for electrical power stations. That approach was abandoned in the late 1950s, after natural gas was discovered in Siberia, but the bogs were never reflooded, though the authorities are currently weighing the idea.

For now, though, firefighters here are confronted with subterranean conflagrations that are among the world’s toughest fires to snuff out, according to the small community of experts on bog fires.

“Every time you think it’s out, it starts smoking again,” complained Sergei A. Andreyev, a soldier who was tending a hose at Fire No. 3. The only foolproof method of suppression is to reflood the bog, a tremendously difficult job.

In the broader world of forest-fire fighting, there is much glory to go around. But not much is shared by the men who fight peat bog fires.

It is primarily a task of engineering and digging.

Unfortunately for residents of the Russian capital, the region around Moscow is particularly vulnerable to peat fires. Of 10 fires burning around Elektrogorsk, or Electrical City, named for the long-ago plan to illuminate Moscow with energy from peat, four are burning in the dried-out bogs.

Peat fires typically burn a far smaller area than fast-moving forest fires. But they can burn up to 10 times more biological mass per acre than an above-ground fire. And they spew vastly more smoke.

In Russia this summer, officials have reported 26,509 fires that so far have burned about 1.9 million acres. Of these fires, 1,104 were peat bog fires, covering a total of about 4,200 acres.

“The dynamics, the emissions and the suppression are all totally different from a flaming fire,” Guillermo Rein, an assistant professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and an authority on peat fires, said in a telephone interview.

“This is a massive problem that nobody is looking at,” he said. “The flaming ones are always in the news.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin underscored that point by taking to the skies to serve as co-pilot of an amphibious firefighting jet, the Be-200, on a dive-bombing run over a burning forest in central Russia, though he has no known pilot training.

The prime minister was shown on state television pressing a button to release tons of water, and asking, “Was that O.K.?”

“A direct hit!” the pilot replied.

Fighting peat fires is an exhausting, muddy job, taking weeks or months, in which hardly a flame is visible. Matted, rotting vegetation smolders and steams deep underground.

The Russians, recognized leaders in fighting peat fires, employ a number of techniques.

At Fire No. 3, they were spraying the peat from a fire hose propped up like a sprinkler, moved every hour or so.

Fire trucks are also equipped with a special needlelike nozzle that is jammed into the ground. As the water is pumped in, steam hisses out. Firefighters will also sometimes dig through the peat layer to the bedrock, creating a containment trench around the dried-out bog.

Peat fires can present special dangers. Sometimes, for example, fires burn underground cavities in the peat, into which firefighters or trucks can tumble. This has not happened this year, however, said Mikhail A. Mironov, a spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Moscow region. Peat fires also can destroy tree roots, so that apparently healthy trees often fall without warning. They are cut down as a precaution.

Here, soldiers wiped sweat and soot from their faces, and every half-hour or so they moved the hoses to irrigate another swath of ground.

Perhaps the most noxious and dangerous characteristic of peat fires is their heavy smoke. In a surface fire, the heat forces the smoke plume into the atmosphere. But in a peat fire, with its relatively cool surface temperatures, the smoke hugs the ground, seeping into homes, choking lungs and stopping flights at airports.

All countries with peat — the four largest are Russia, Canada, the United States and Indonesia, according to Mr. Rein — experience peat fires, he said. Fires are more common in tropical peat than in boreal peat, he said, though global warming may change that.

The difficulty in containing a peat fire depends on the depth of the peat and the water content. The drier, deeper fields around Moscow, with layers of peat up to 15 feet thick, present a particular headache.

So much water is needed to extinguish peat fires that the Russian government this summer has been laying a 30-mile-long pipeline from the Oka River to a region of peat fires east of Moscow. The minister of emergency situations, Sergei K. Shoigu, visited that area on Wednesday to inspect the pipe, and on Thursday the water was turned on.

Aleksei A. Yermolenko, head of the Department for Preservation at the Federal Forestry Agency, said an outbreak of peat fires in 2002 prompted the government of the Moscow region to draw up plans to reflood old peat mines, but they had not yet been carried out. This summer, he said, the issue was raised again.

“Of course,” he added. “They would be easier to put out if we had not drained the swamps.” Source:

Situation with forest fires on the territory of the Russian Federation according to the information received at 06:00 Moscow time 12 August 2010
236 islands of fires appeared during the day. 224 islands of fire were put out. 562 islands of fire continue to be active on the total area of 81 015.07 ha. There are 66 big islands of fire on the area of 53 285.9 ha, including 40 islands of peat fires.

In total 26 739 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 816 514.9 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.

Top Firefighter Longs for ‘Good, Old System’

12 August 2010

The devastating wildfires have shown severe shortcomings in Russia’s firefighting organization, deficits that are all the more bizarre because until recently the country possessed one of the world’s biggest task forces specialized in combating burning woods and fields.

That organization, the Aerial Forest Protection Center, or Avialesokhrana, employed some 9,000 firefighters specially trained and equipped to put out wildfires in Soviet times.

Most of them were so-called smokejumpers, who fly and parachute right into remote fire-hit areas.

In the 1990s, their number was slashed to about 4,000, and in 2007, the center was reduced to the status of a monitoring agency, with just 1,800 personnel left at its disposal.

This summer’s catastrophic fires have shown that the reform was a failure and the best way out is to re-establish a unified wildfire fighting center, Andrei Yeritsov, deputy director of the Aerial Forest Protection Center, said Wednesday.

“It would be good if the responsibility for putting out fires were handed back to the federal level,” Yeritsov told The Moscow Times.

The reform was part of the new Forest Code, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2007.

The code, which has been lambasted by environmentalists as the result of timber and real estate industry lobbying, transferred responsibility for the country’s vast woodlands to local owners and regional authorities, effectively crippling the woodland fire control system.

The case of the Aerial Forest Protection Center highlights environmentalists’ argument.

With the reform, most of the center’s resources went into the hands of the country’s regions, which seriously impeded effective firefighting activities, Yeritsov said.

Much of the center’s staff and equipment ended up in the regions where they happened to be based, leading to massive misallocations, he said.

As an example, he named the center’s once formidable fleet of firefighting planes and helicopters. All 106 aircraft, mainly consisting of An-2 biplanes, were given to the regions, where just half of them are now being used for firefighting.

The Vladimir region, east of Moscow, got 16 planes, although it needed only one, meaning that the aircraft sit mostly on the ground or are used for other, commercial purposes.

“This is absurd,” Yeritsov said.

The regions also laid off many of the firefighters they inherited, leading to the current shortage of wildfire specialists, he said.

“These people have enormous experience in putting out wildfires — they did it every year. Normal fire brigades do this maybe once in a decade,” he said.

Officials with the Aerial Forest Protection Center have asked the government to consider re-establishing the center’s position as the central institution for fighting wildfires and hope that they will be successful, Yeritsov said.

“We know our suggestions are being considered. It would be good to return to the old system,” he said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who signed the Forest Code as president in 2006, said Tuesday that the Federal Forest Agency, which oversees the Aerial Forest Protection Center, should be placed under direct government control. The agency now answers to the Agriculture Ministry.

Oleg Aksyonov, a spokesman for the ministry, said he could not comment on further reforms because they would be taken directly by the government.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not answer repeated calls to his cell phone Wednesday.

The situation is unlikely to improve soon because regional governors will be reluctant to hand back their powers to the Aerial Forest Protection Center, said Johann Goldammer, head of the Global Fire Monitoring Center at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

In a telephone interview, Goldammer assailed the Forest Code for transferring responsibility from the state to commercial owners.

“These owners are more interested in quick profits than in sustainable forestry,” he said.

State control should be reinstated because the country’s vast forests and carbon-producing marshes are hugely important for the global ecosystem, he said.

But Russia is not alone when it comes to disorganized firefighting capabilities. The most widespread problem is that traditional firefighters are not trained and equipped for wildfires, Goldammer said.

In that respect, the Aerial Forest Protection Center had been a model agency. “In good times they had very good equipment and trained specialists,” he said.

Decentralization often makes things more complicated, yet some European regions have successfully built efficient structures.

“Catalonia in Spain and regions in the south of France probably have Europe’s best capacities to fight wildfires,” Goldammer said.

Others, notably Greece, have failed by introducing reforms aiming at shifting powers from forest authorities to firefighters.

Europeans and Russians could also learn from the United States, where state-level organization is backed up with national coordination.

A specialist team from the U.S. Forest Disaster Assistance Support Program is currently in Moscow to assess how Washington can help fighting the wildfires, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

“They’re working — continuing to consult with the Russian government about how we can be helpful,” he said, according to a transcript on the State Department’s web site.

The meetings come after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week offered help to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Both countries have a history of cooperation in fighting fires. In the 1970s, they began an exchange of smokejumpers, according to the U.S. government’s web site.

In 2008, representatives of the Aerial Forest Protection Center held an exchange of ideas with American wildfire managers in California, and U.S. Forest Service specialists participated in a June conference on cross-border forest fires in the East Siberian city of Irkutsk. Source:

Few Chernobyl radiation risks from Russia fires9:16am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) – Fears that fires scorching forests near Chernobyl may reawaken dangerous amounts of radioactive fallout and propel it into the air are overblown, scientists say, and the actual health risks are very small.

Even firefighters tackling the blazes, which officials say have hit forests in Russia’s Bryansk region polluted by radioactive dust from the 1986 Chernobyl reactor disaster, are unlikely to run any added nuclear contamination risks.

The amount of radiation in smoke would be only a fraction of the original fallout, they say.

“Of the total radioactivity in the area, much less than one percent of it will be remobilized,” said Jim Smith, an expert on Chernobyl and a specialist in Earth and Environmental Sciences at Britain’s University of Portsmouth.

Radioactive contamination in the area has substantially diminished in the almost two and a half decades since explosions at Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 caused the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster on April 26, 1986.

“Most of the radioactivity is in the soil, which will not be affected by the fires, and only a small proportion is in the vegetation,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “And of that only a very small proportion of that will get re-suspended in the smoke from the fires.”

Russia’s forest protection agency said on Wednesday that fires covering an area of 39 square kilometers (15 square miles) had been registered in regions with forests polluted with radiation. The regions affected included Bryansk province, which borders Ukraine, southwest of Moscow.

Both France’s Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety and Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection said on Thursday that while some radiation was likely to be remobilized in smoke, the health risks were minimal and would have no impact on either Russia or neighboring countries.

“The fires do not have any radiological consequence for the rest of Europe and Germany since the dispersion of the radioactive substances is regionally limited,” the German organization said on its website.

According to experts, the types of radioactive isotopes that might still be active in the Bryansk area include strontium 90 and caesium 137. These substances have half lives of about 30 years, meaning that only about half the radioactive material emitted by Chernobyl is still around now.

“Even though the contaminated territories are affected by the fires in Russia, the situation would not lead to health concerns for the population, locally and in other countries in Europe,” said France’s Institute for Radiation Protection.

It said there may be a slight increase in radioactivity in the nearby environment due to re-suspension of caesium-137, “but it would be very much lower than the natural radioactivity.”

Portsmouth’s Smith and Stig Husin, an analyst in emergency preparedness at the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, said the main threat from the fires both locally and nationally in Russia was the choking smoke from forest and peat fires, and the smog which is clouding the air in Moscow — all of which can cause lung and heart problems.

“I would be much more concerned about the smog in Moscow and the health impacts of that — not because of radiation but because of people inhaling harmful air pollution,” said Smith.

Husin said those living near the Chernobyl-contaminated areas where fires have been reported would be wise to protect themselves by staying inside or wearing masks.

“Naturally it would be good if you are living close to the fires to protect yourself from the smoke itself. If you do protect yourself then naturally you protect yourself from the radioactive substances that may be in the smoke.”

Russia Says Fires Burn Chernobyl-Tainted Forests

Date: 12-Aug-10

Russia Says Fires Burn Chernobyl-Tainted Forests Photo: REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Alexei Nikolsky/Pool
Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) talks to residents in the village of Kriusha, some 250 km (155 miles) southeast of Moscow in Ryazan region, August 10, 2010.
Photo: REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Alexei Nikolsky/Pool

Fires have scorched forests contaminated with radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a Russian forestry official said on Wednesday, but it was unclear how dangerous the smoke might be.

Kremlin leaders are already grappling with Russia’s deadliest wildfires since 1972 and a drought that has destroyed crops after what weather monitoring officials say was the country’s hottest summer in a millennium.

Fears of stirring up nuclear pollution from the Chernobyl disaster could take the crisis to a new level, though officials said radiation levels were normal in Moscow and once scientist said the level of risk depended on exactly where the fires were.

“Yes, there have been fires,” Vasily Tuzov, deputy director of Russia’s forest protection agency, told Reuters by telephone when asked if there had been fires in forests polluted by the Chernobyl accident, the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster.

“Most of them have been extinguished now,” Tuzov said.

He refused to give more details about the fires, referring to a statement on the agency’s website which said that fires covering an area of 39 square kilometers (15 square miles) had been registered in regions with forests polluted with radiation.

The regions affected included Bryansk province, which borders Ukraine southwest of Moscow and was polluted by radioactive dust that billowed across Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Europe after a series of explosions at Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 on April 26, 1986.

Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said on August 5 that in the event of a fire in forests in the Bryansk region, radioactive particles could be propelled into the air.

Kim Holmen, head of research at the Norwegian Polar Institute, said trees, other vegetation and the ground had absorbed some of the nuclear material spewed out in the 1986 accident and blazes were releasing some again into the air.

“The sins of our fathers revisit us,” he told Reuters.

“There is a remobilization of Chernobyl material. That is a side of biomass burning that is under-communicated. There is plenty of this still around … In order to say anything useful about the amounts you have to see where the fires are.”

Greenpeace Russia said in a statement that three fires had been registered in badly contaminated forests in the Bryansk region, which was polluted with the nuclear isotope caesium 137.

Radiation levels in the Moscow region were unchanged and within normal limits on Thursday, said on Yelena Popova, the head of Moscow’s radiation monitoring center.

Asked whether fires in the areas contaminated by Chernobyl could bring radioactive particles in the Moscow region, she said the risk was still “theoretical.”

“There is a possibility that winds could bring contaminated air from Kaluga or Tula regions if major fires erupt there,” she said, referring to two Russian provinces a little under 200 km (125 miles) southwest of Moscow that were also polluted by Chernobyl.

“But our monitoring stations have not registered any increase in such activity so far,” she said.


The wildfires have killed at least 54 people in Russia.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she had called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday to express solidarity with Russia over the crisis.

Strong winds cleared the toxic smoke that has choked Moscow for three weeks on Wednesday, but weather forecasters warned it could return in 24 hours.

The heat and smoke in Moscow — which sent pollution levels to the highest levels in decades — almost doubled mortality rates in the capital and disrupted flights, consumer activity and even trading in Russian stocks and bonds.

Muscovites got a glimpse of clear skies on Wednesday after a thunderstorm accompanied by strong winds in the early hours dispersed the smoke. Some young Russians rejoiced in the rains, dancing in the downpour and cheering the thunder and lightning.

The Emergencies Ministry said the area of burning forests in Russia had almost halved in the past 24 hours to 927 square km (358 square miles) from 1,740 square km (676 square miles), and that nearly 166,000 people were fighting more than 600 fires.

“As soon as there is windless weather again, the smoke will return,” Roman Vilfand, the director of the state weather forecasting center, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

“It has got easier in Moscow but not where the fires are burning.”

Weather brings some relief from Moscow smogIt's the first significant break from heavy smoke in Moscow in more than two weeks.

It’s the first significant break from heavy smoke in Moscow in more than two weeks. (Reuters: Alexander Natruskin)

Moscow is breathing a sigh of relief today after winds and rain provided a respite from toxic smog that has shrouded the city.

Rains overnight and a change in wind direction have provided the first significant break from heavy smoke in Russia’s capital in more than two weeks.

But forecasters say the relief may be temporary, with more high temperatures and wind shifts expected in the coming days.

Officials say favourable conditions have reduced the total area burning in the country by half.

But the emergency services ministry also says crews are still fighting more than 600 bushfires across Russia. 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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