GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires  in the Russian Federation  

14 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes:

MODIS Terra, 15 August 2010. The smoke is back in and over Moscow. 

MODIS Terra, Moscow Region, 15 August 2010.
Source: MODIS 

Moscow region, 15 August 2010. Source: MODIS
Though Russia’s wildfires appeared to be abating, fires in two regions continued to produce heavy smoke on August 15, 2010. The top image shows fires outside of the city of Nizhniy Novgorod, east of Moscow. Dense white smoke rises from two large fires (which are outlined in red) and arcs north over the city. Several other fires burn in the forest east of the largest fires. The second cluster of smoke-producing fires is in the Ural Mountains, lower image, roughly a thousand kilometers (about 620 miles) away from the first set of fires. Though these fires appear to be smaller, the sensor detected more of them. The thick clouds of smoke blow east from the fires. The large image provides a broad view of Russia, including both sets of fires. The image is from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. The image is available inmultiple resolutions from the MODIS Rapid Response Team, the most detailed of which is the large image also published on the Earth Observatory. Source: Earthobservatory

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.

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Map legend

Administrative boundaries

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

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Moscow Region Vladimir Region    Nizhni Novgorod Region

More maps of other regions are available on request:

According to the latest satellite-derived analysis provided by the Sukachev Institute for Forest (Krasnoyarsk) the total area burned per Region by 13 August:

  • Moscow Region: 48 306  ha

  • Vladimir Region: 100 443  ha

  • Nizhni Novgorod Region: 325 283  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.

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

News from the Media:

Putin to check out new method of smothering peat bog fires

Russian Prime Minister will check out new technology of extinguishing peat bog fires and discuss putting up homes for homeless fire victims during his work visit to Moscow region on August 16, the press service of the Russian government said.

The Premier will get acquainted with advanced technology of peat bog irrigation which will allow quenching the peat bog fires, which are now raging across Central Russia, much faster, the statement said.

Moscow region authorities have prepared project of peat bog irrigation at the cost of 20-25 billion rubles ($655-818.5 million), Moscow region’s Governor Boris Gromov said earlier. The region has already been allocated 300 million rubles ($9.8 million) for these purposes. Peat bog irrigation commenced in six districts of Moscow region on August 12.

Later in the day, Putin will take part in a meeting dedicated to developing cheap and accessible homes for Russians. Building of new homes for fire victims will also be discussed.

The fires ravaging across Russia have already left 3,500 people homeless. Russian authorities have vowed to put up new homes for the fire victims by the end of October.

Since mid-June, the Moscow Region has been in the grips of an abnormal heat wave sparking peat bog and forest fires. Thousands of emergency workers and military personnel have been working round the clock for almost three weeks to fight fires in 22 Russian regions. The immediate economic cost of the fires has been estimated at $15 billion.

On August 11, Putin took part in extinguishing forest fires in Ryazan Province on board an amphibious firefighting airplane.

The Russian head of government was the co-pilot for half an hour aboard a Be-200 plane scooping up water from the nearby Oka River and dumping it on raging forest fires some 200 kilometers southeast of Moscow.

He dumped approximately 12 tons of water on each of two fires, extinguishing both completely.Source:  MOSCOW, August 15 (RIA Novosti)

In the Russian wildfires, will Putin get burned?
Russians fainting in the subway. People jumping into city pools and the Moscow River, and in many cases drowning. Ambulances racing around a city eerily free of its normal traffic congestion. Morgues running out of space and corpses piling up on the floor. Hundreds of homeless animals dying of thirst. Muscovites trying to escape but getting stuck at airports that are scrambling to handle some 64,000 flights canceled or badly delayed because of poor visibility. Staff at foreign embassies fleeing. A voice on the radio warning: “Surgical masks do not help. The monoxide gas and the burning substances will stay in your lungs forever!”

These seem like scenes from a horror movie, but they are all too real. Between hundreds of wildfires in Russia and record-breaking heat, this has been the worst summer in Russian memory. Nearly 100 deaths are officially attributed to the fires so far (the real figure is undoubtedly much higher), and officials report that the death rate in Moscow has doubled from its customary levels, to 700 per day, owing to heat-induced illness and smoke-filled air. Thousands of homes and dachas have been destroyed, with direct losses estimated at $15 billion and rising.

The fires started a month ago, but Russia’s leaders were slow to grasp the gravity of the situation and slower to respond. As his country burned, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev went on vacation in the resort town of Sochi — and then, inexplicably, headed off to the Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia to mark the two-year anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war.

Despite the dire situation in the capital, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov departed for his own holiday, in the Alps, returning only grudgingly. The state forestry agency’s Moscow director was fired for refusing to cut short his own vacation, while Medvedev, in a striking display of hypocrisy, threatened to dismiss other forestry officials who remained on leave.

This response has been so appalling in its ineptitude that it invites comparisons to past disasters. Is this like the 1986 Chernobyl disaster? Or is it more like Hurricane Katrina in 2005? Politically speaking, it should be even worse than Katrina. For one thing, a good part of Russia’s catastrophe has unfolded in the nation’s capital, not in a far-off region such as the Gulf Coast. And these fires are burning with Russia’s 2012 presidential elections on the horizon; Katrina hit after George W. Bush had been reelected.

The current crisis should expose and discredit the Russian government at its most incompetent and should permanently taint those in charge. Of course, this doesn’t mean it will: Russia’s government is not a government of the people, but of the well-connected. Its citizens haven’t expected much of their leaders, even before the fires.

But if the events of the past month haven’t started a political conflagration, they do seem to be fanning a long-smoldering public distrust of the government. And fires can be unpredictable.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin bears direct responsibility for the dysfunctional system that set the stage for disaster: Legislation that came into effect in 2007, when he was president, turned forest management over to poorly equipped local authorities and to companies that manufacture paper and related products. Oligarchs close to the Kremlin allegedly lobbied for the law, which decimated the forest ranger corps and left Russia ill-prepared for today’s calamity.

But Putin’s political survival skills are formidable, and writing his political obituary would be premature. More than anyone in the top leadership, he has been meeting with affected families and directing emergency operations. In a blatant PR stunt Tuesday, he even co-piloted a firefighting plane in the Ryazan region, site of some of the worst fires.

And while elections are coming up, voters are unlikely to have much choice when they go to the polls, given the absence of viable political alternatives. Russia doesn’t have a remotely functioning democracy; it lacks official accountability, independent institutions and a vigorous media. Opposition leaders and other critics of the government are endlessly harassed by the authorities. Elections for governors were eliminated in 2004 and replaced by a corrupt appointment system, and the same is starting to occur at the mayoral level.

Under such circumstances, it is no wonder that firemen in some regions, ordered to protect the local bosses’ dachas, watched helplessly as the homes of ordinary people were reduced to ashes. And it is no wonder that, despite the raging fires, officials have in recent weeks managed to find the personnel and resources to crack down on ongoing protests against cutting down part of the Khimki forest on the outskirts of Moscow, innocuous opposition rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and a protest this past Thursday against the AWOL mayor of Moscow.

The poor response to the fires will further widen the chasm separating the nation’s authorities from society. Even before Russia began burning, 82 percent of citizens surveyed by the state-run VTsIOM polling agency said state officials do not respect the law. Recent Levada Center polls report that 59 percent of Russians want a return to direct elections for governors, 56 percent are “unsatisfied with what is happening in the country” and 43 percent do not expect “anything positive” from Putin.

Surveys taken after the fires started show public support for Putin and Medvedev, declining even before this crisis, continuing to erode. Medvedev’s seeming indifference to the fires is likely to damage his standing further. His much-vaunted plans to modernize his country and build a Russian answer to Silicon Valley look deeply misguided, given that the state apparently cannot even protect its population from the elements. The image of a Russian government unable to put out a fire is likely to prove indelible.

And while the fires may not be Putin’s version of Katrina, even he will emerge from the smoke having suffered the sort of pushback he rarely encounters. At a meeting he recently attended in the Nizhny Novgorod region, desperate citizens shouted at him: “The authorities should be hanged by their balls!” Russian bloggers have taken him to task for his flying stunt. Increasingly, the authorities and society resemble two galaxies moving in opposite directions.

A decade ago this past Thursday, a different tragedy befell Russia with the sinking of the Kursk submarine and the loss of 118 Russian sailors. The government at the time, led by its new president, Putin, was blasted for a tardy and feckless response. When, soon afterward, CNN’s Larry King asked Putin about the loss of the Kursk, the Russian leader replied callously: “It sank.”

Today, were Putin to be interviewed by King about the Russian fires, he might not get away with saying simply: “Russia burned down.”

The Forest forum of Greenpeace compared data from GFMC site with official statistic MCHAES Russia about wildfire situation and concluded that the difference in 19 times
По данным Всемирного центра мониторинга пожаров (Global Fire Monitoring Center, Германия), площадь, пройденная пожарами на природных территориях России с начала 2010 года по 13 августа, составила 15 688 855 гектаров. В качестве первичного источника информации указывается Институт леса имени Сукачева (Красноярск). Приводятся также данные по ряду регионов, в наибольшей степени пострадавших от пожаров. Согласно данным Всемирного центра мониторинга пожаров, в Московской области пожарами на природных территориях с начала года пройдено 43 718 гектаров, во Владимирской области – 94 950 гектаров, в Нижегородской области – 300 047 гектаров.

Ссылка:Forest Fires in the Russian Federation, 13 August 2010.

Для сравнения. Согласно сводке МЧС на 13.08.2010, “всего с начала пожароопасного периода 2010 г. на территории Российской Федерации возникло 26 977 очагов природных пожаров на общей площади 832 215,6 га”.

Ссылка: Сводка МЧС РФ на 13.08.2010.

Таким образом, данные Всемирного центра мониторинга пожаров о площади пожаров на природных территориях России расходятся с данными МЧС РФ примерно в девятнадцать раз.

Примечательно, что с середины дня 13 августа 2010 года Федеральное агентство лесного хозяйства закрыло доступ граждан к своим сводкам о лесопожарной обстановке в России. Таким образом, официальная статистика Рослесхоза о лесных пожарах больше не является общедоступной, что прямо нарушает статью 42 Конституции Российской Федерации, в соответствии с которой каждый имеет право на достоверную информацию о состоянии окружающей среды.

Как бы то ни было, до сегодняшнего дня данные Рослесхоза о пройденной пожарами площади примерно совпадали с данными МЧС, т.е. также почти в два десятка раз расходились с данными Всемирного центра мониторинга пожаров.

Отчасти разница в данных объясняется тем, что МЧС значительную часть пожаров на природных территориях классифицирует как “загорания” и не учитывает в своей официальной статистике. Но в целом почти двадцатикратная разница между данными одной из наиболее авторитетных международных организаций и данными МЧС РФ о площади пожаров на природных территориях заставляет задуматься – а действительно ли МЧС в курсе происходящего в нашей стране, и можно ли хоть в какой-то степени доверять выдаваемой этим министерством информации.

Собственно, у работников лесных и природоохранных организаций ответ на последний вопрос давно есть, но хотелось бы, чтобы этот же вопрос начали задавать себе руководители страны, журналисты и остальные граждане.

Fires still threaten Russian nuclear site
Shifting winds brought the acrid smell of smog back to Moscow on Sunday and fires continued to burn near Russia’s main nuclear research centre as residents complained of ash in the air in central Russia.

Amid the worst heatwave in its history, Russia has for days battled to cut back hundreds of blazes across the country, including fires in a nature reserve near its top nuclear research centre in Sarov, a town still closed to foreigners as in Soviet times.

The secret nuclear research centre tucked into the woods in central Russia straddles two regions — the Nizhny Novgorod and Mordovia regions — and the emergency ministry said on Sunday the number of fires in both regions had been reduced.

“Despite the continuing hot weather, man is prevailing over the wildfires. There has been a firm trend of cutting the number of wildfires in the region for the first time in the past days this week,” the emergency ministry’s Volga regional branch said.

But the fires were still burning in the villages of Popovka and Pushta in the nature reserve where more than 1,200 people and over 150 pieces of equipment were fighting the flames, Mikhail Turkov, a spokesman for the ministry’s Volga regional branch, told AFP.

Turkov said the situation remained under control and “stable”.

The fire in Popovka still covered 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) but has been partially contained and the area of the most active blaze covers just 30 hectares (75 acres), the ministry said.

The fire near Pushta covering 200 hectares (500 acres) has been contained, the ministry said.

Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom, said he had personally inspected the area around Sarov and that there was no danger of nuclear explosions or other environmental threats even if the fire reached the territory of the centre.

The threat of the fire reaching the premises of the nuclear centre, which is surrounded by forests on all sides, was “very real” several days ago but the situation is now under control, he said on Friday in comments released by Rosatom on Saturday.

“The fire is constantly spreading from the Mordovia reserve and as long as it has not been put out, this risk for Sarov will remain.”

“The threat of fire from the Mordovia natural reserve will only be fully eliminated once protracted rains have come. Until then, we’ll have to be on high alert,” Kiriyenko added.

Across Russia there were 498 fires covering an area of 53,500 hectares (132,200 acres), down from 56,000 hectares (138,500 acres) the day before, a quarter of the area of almost 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) reported at the peak of the crisis.

Authorities managed to reduce an area of wildfires around Moscow by almost 25 hectares (62 acres) over the past day and there were seven burning peat bogs over an area of a mere eight hectares (20 acres), a Moscow-based emergency ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

But an acrid smell returned to Moscow as shifting winds brought back smog from the neighbouring Ryazan and Vladimir regions in central Russia where three major peat bogs were burning.

A spokesman for air pollution monitoring service Mosekomonitoring, Alexei Popikov, told AFP carbon monoxide levels in the Moscow air were 1.3 times higher than acceptable levels due to the smog as of 0800 GMT.

Shifting winds are expected to clear the smoke later in the day, he said. A heavy smog also cloaked the city of Nizhny Novgorod some 430 kilometers (265 miles) east of Moscow, the emergencies ministry said.

Vitaly Dubonin, a resident of Nizhny Novgorod, said on the popular Echo of Moscow radio, that the smoke was very dense with small specks of ash in the air.

“The same as yesterday morning,” he said, adding that only very few people were wearing medical masks.

In Moscow a week ago noxious smoke had crept into apartments, offices, stores and even underground into the Moscow metro forcing Russians to flee the debilitating combination of smog and high temperatures en masse.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was set to travel to the town of Kolomna outside Moscow on Monday where officials were to show him a technique for flooding peat bogs that have dried out over the years polluting the air as they burn.

Noxious smog from wildfires returns to Moscow

Moscow – A cloud of toxic smog descended again on the Russian capital Moscow on Sunday, as smoke from the surrounding wildfires drifted back into the city centre.

The city had received some respite from the deadly smog in recent days, with heavy rains and a lack of wind easing the situation.

Previously the daily mortality rate in Moscow had double to around 700 people, believed to be related to breathing difficulties exacerbated by the poisonous smog.

But on Sunday city authorities called on residents to again shut windows and wear respiratory masks, after the change in weather conditions.

Tens of thousands of residents are reported to have left the city, with others complaining of headaches and nausea.

Hundreds of out of control wildfires are still burning around the capital, in the severest outbreak of forest and peat fires in the country’s history.

The fires have been fanned by one of the hottest and driest droughts in centuries.

The official death toll stands at over 50 killed nationwide directly by the fires.

As well as a mounting death toll, the conditions have destroyed large areas of crops. Russia has now imposed a ban on grain exports until the end of the year.

As one of the world’s biggest producers of wheat, barley and rye, and the ban is likely to see bread prices rise. Source: DPA, 15 August 2010.

Fire situation improves around Moscow
MOSCOW — The number of wildfires in the Moscow region fell sharply overnight, but hundreds of blazes continued to rage in other areas of Russia, and officials warned Saturday that some of them are in hard-to-reach regions.

Authorities hope they are witnessing signs of improvement after weeks of ferocious wildfires across central and western Russia, which have killed more than 50 people and displaced hundreds amid the worst heat wave on record.

Heavy downpours cooled Moscow this week after days of choking smog from the fires shrouded the city, prompting residents and tourists to put on face masks just to venture outside.

Officials have warned winds could bring the smog back to the city, and while Moscow was clear on Saturday a burning smell lurked in the air.

The Emergencies Ministry said in a statement Saturday that “the situation in the Moscow region has significantly improved,” with the number of fires there falling by half to 16 overnight. But it also said 480 fires continued to burn elsewhere in the country, down from more than 500 on Friday.

Vladimir Stepanov, who heads the Emergencies Ministry’s crisis response center, said in televised comments that the central regions of Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan were still in jeopardy as winds fanned the blazes.

Russia has been battling the fires for nearly three weeks. They have destroyed provincial towns and villages, and together with the drought have cost Russia a third of its wheat crop.

A new wildfire has started east of a nuclear research facility in Sarov, 300 miles (480 kilometers) east of Moscow. The blaze spread quickly, prompting firefighters in the region to call in reinforcements from neighboring areas, according to the region’s emergency headquarters.

State television on Saturday showed officials near Sarov complaining they could not gauge the size of the fire because thick smoke prevented aerial swoops and smoldering ground prevented firefighters from getting close to the flames. Source:

Acrid smog covers Moscow after three-day reliefThe smog from the wildfires raging outside Moscow is covering the city after the 3-day relief.

The visibility has considerably dropped up to 300 meters. Muscovites has put on face masks again.

Since mid-June, the Moscow Region has been in the grips of an abnormal heat wave sparking forest fires. During two weeks the capital was blanketed in acrid dense smog.

The worst smoky days were August 6 and 7, when the carbon monoxide concentration in the air exceeded the maximum permissible level 6 to 7 times over.

On Thursday the head of the Russian state meteorological center, Roman Vilfand said the conditions for smog formation around Moscow would remain until next week due to continuing wildfires and peat bog fires outside the capital and an unfavorable air circulation.

“These conditions move the smog from fire-stricken areas [into Moscow],” the scientist said, adding that a new smog wave would most likely suffocate the Russian capital again over the weekend.

MOSCOW, August 14 (Source: RIA Novosti)

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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