GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

17 August 2010

Latest MODIS scenes: 17 August

MODIS Terra, 17 August 2010. 500m resolution.  

Moscow region, 17 August 2010. Source: MODIS

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 17 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 (17 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)

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.

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Map legend

Administrative boundaries

Latest maps maps showing fire activities of  17 August 2010 (selection):

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

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News from the media:

RussiaEU sends 80,000 euros worth of aid to Russian wildfire victims

The EU has set aside over 80,000 euros ($104,000) to help Russians affected by wildfires, the Delegation of the EU to Russia said on Tuesday.

It said the EU had put aside a total of 81,589 euros to immediately assist 1,700 families that have lost their homes and livelihoods due to fires in the Voronezh, Belgorod, Kirov, Nizhny Novgorod, and Moscow regions.

The aid, in the form of foodstuffs, bedding, clothing, detergents, and other vital supplies, will be distributed through the International Foundation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

A scorching heat wave has gripped much of European Russia since mid-June, which, coupled with the worst drought since the 1970s, has made the countryside particularly susceptible to wildfires.

Thousands of emergency workers and military personnel have been working round the clock for almost three weeks to fight the fires in 22 regions that have claimed 53 lives and left over 3,500 people homeless. The immediate economic cost of the fires has been estimated at $15 billion. Source:

Storm to lift heatwave’s siege of MoscowRussia’s record-breaking heatwave is set to come to a dramatic end with a severe storm now heading for the capital, Moscow.

The storm has already battered the city of St Petersberg, where trees were brought down by hurricane-force winds and heavy rain.

It is hoped the rain will bring down the temperature in Moscow, which has been sweltering in 40 degree Celsius heat for more than a month.

Officials say firefighters and soldiers are also making progress in containing rampant wildfires burning in many parts of the country, but some of the nation’s most sensitive nuclear research sites remain under threat.

After a brief interlude, smoke from stubborn peat fires has once again shrouded the capital Moscow, with air pollution in parts of the city exceeding five times the normal level.

There are fewer fires burning, but the peat fires burning deep underground will not go out easily.

Alexander Marchenko from the ministry of emergencies says extinguishing those fires requires soaking widespread areas again and again.

“The difficulty lies in the delivery of water and in washing out the peat and hotbeds – not to leave these spots that might ignite again,” he said.

By some estimates the peat fires are responsible for 90 per cent of the smoke choking Moscow.

Even after the fields have been deluged with water, smoke filters through from pockets of peat still on fire below.

There are no shortcuts available – water drops from aircraft work mostly on the surface so there is no alternative but to patrol the peat fields with a hose, all day long.

“The major problem is that you spend 16 hours in the open sun, it is hot. The surface temperature is about 40 [degrees Celsius], below the temperature is about 1,000 degrees,” ministry of emergencies official Vitaliy Simonov explains.

All of this has reignited debate about the future of the areas which are burning. Much of it was once swampland that was drained during Soviet times.

Now there is a plan to re-flood the bogs to prevent fires, but even if it is approved it will cost $750 million and take years. Source: Relief Web

C-130s Deliver Firefighting Supplies to Russia

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, Aug. 17, 2010 – Two C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft flew missions from here into Russia on Aug. 13, delivering firefighting supplies promised by President Barack Obama to aid in the battle against rampant wildfires.

Members of the 37th Airlift Squadron delivered equipment from Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy units throughout U.S. European Command.

Eucom officials began brainstorming about a week before the operation on how the command could help after the Russian government forwarded a list of equipment they needed to officials at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

“Our smart planners worked with all of our components in Europe to rapidly determine what we could supply,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Harold Moulton, Eucom’s operations director. “We identified supplies like Pioneer Equipment, large-diameter hoses, mobile pumping stations, personal protective equipment and medical kits, and then packaged them for delivery.

“We reached out to our bases as far west as Rota, Spain, and as far south as Sigonella, Italy,” he continued. “Additional materials were identified from our stocks in Norway and at our air base at Ramstein. We asked our air component, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, to lead, and they did a great job. Our C-130 aircrews demonstrated their flexibility and ‘get it done’ attitude.”

The U.S. response to the Russian wildfires was a quickly pushed mission, and crews were ready to spring into action, said Air Force Lt. Col. Tobias Sernel, 37th Airlift Squadron and mission commander.

“Support from the embassy in Moscow made it possible to get our crews and equipment up in the air in incredible time,” Sernel said.

“It was a tiring mission with two roundtrip flights, more than 17 hours of flight time, and hours of loading and offloading equipment,” he added. “But when you consider the lifesaving equipment delivered and the bilateral relationship that was bolstered, doing all this was worth the effort.”

The mission was “incredible” from all perspectives, said Air Force Master Sgt. Keith Houin, USAFE public affairs documentation team leader. “It was impressive to see the orchestration of hundreds of airmen, two nations and so much equipment on such short notice. Anyone who touched even the smallest piece of this mission should be proud of what they did. We showed the world that the United States is a great partner.” Source: Relief Web

ACT Alert No. 27/2010 – Russia – Fires continue to rage across Central Russia
Geneva, 17 August, 2010

1) Brief Description of the Emergency:

Forest fires, caused by abnormally high temperatures fluctuating around 40⁰C, have raged in many parts of Central Russia. In some areas, these fires have turned into powerful fire fronts, erasing whole villages and city suburbs.

2) Impact:

Currently wildfires are raging in 22 regions. In seven, including the Moscow region, a state of emergency has been declared by the President. As of 12 August, 76 major hotbeds of fire exist. A total of 1990 houses have been burnt down, 1824 families have been left homeless, 52 lives have been lost and 472 people injured.

Out of 3745 people who have applied to authorities for aid, 3299 have received a one-time monetary support of 10 thousand roubles each (around US$ 330). The families of those who died are to receive 1 million roubles.

Most of those who have lost their homes have found temporary shelter with relatives and neighbours or are in specially arranged public buildings such as schools, clubs, hostels and hospitals. Local authorities and the Ministry for Emergencies have provided medical aid, medicines, fire fighting appliances, water, food and clothes. Relief has also been provided by a number of public organisations and volunteers.

The Regional Development Ministry has drafted a time schedule for restoring housing for the victims. In particular, 798 houses are to be restored in the Nizhny Novgorod region, 242 houses in the Ryazan region, and 187 houses in the Lipetsk region. Most of the houses are planned to be finished by the end of October 2010. Source: Relief Web

 Full_Report (pdf* format – 121,6 Kbytes)

Experts: Russia heat, smog trigger health problems

Russian health experts warned Tuesday that unprecedented heat and suffocating smog from wildfires will lead to more suicides, higher rates of alcohol abuse and other problems, and they accused the government of failing to address the long-term health dangers.

The hottest summer since records began 130 years ago has sparked thousands of fires in Russia, mostly in the western part of the country, and smoke from wildfires around Moscow again clouded some parts of the Russian capital, even though firefighters have scored successes in containing the blazes.

The number of deaths recorded in Moscow had doubled to an average of 700 per day during the worst of the scorching heat and smog, city officials said.

Boris Revich, a medical expert at the Moscow-based Institute for Economic Forecasts, said 5,840 more people had died in Moscow in July than during the same month last year. He said the report came from the city registry office, but it did not list ages or causes of death.

“The main reasons seem to be heart and respiratory diseases,” Revich said at a news conference Tuesday.

Even though the heat wave was expected to break later in the week, he said long-term health risks remained.

“This heat has affected all organs, including respiratory and endocrine systems, and we should expect more cases of diabetes, suicides, alcohol-related nervous breakdowns,” Revich said.

Official data on the number of suicides and medical conditions related to the heat wave are not available yet, he said.

Another expert deplored what he called the lack of long-term emergency planning in health care.

“We never care to work with a future perspective in mind,” Alexei Skripkov of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency said. “It’s a big systemic mistake.”

He said that European nations such as Germany and France were quick to upgrade their health care policies after the unprecedented heat wave in 2003. Russian officials have failed to take similar measures, even though peat bog and forest fires have burned around Moscow in the past.

Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry said that its teams have cut the area covered by fires around Moscow by more than a quarter over the past 24 hours, but 14 forest and peat bog fires are still burning east and southeast of the city.

On Tuesday, large sections of the capital were again cloaked by smog, although the concentration of pollutants remained far below their peak levels earlier this month when smog hung over the city for a week.

Alexei Popikov of the Mosecomonitoring watchdog agency said carbon monoxide levels in the air remained within their maximum safe limit Tuesday, but the amount of hydrocarbons is twice the permissible level. The situation improved with a wind change later in the day.

More than 50 people have died directly in the wildfires across Russia, and more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said Tuesday that more than 166,000 people and 62 firefighting aircraft are battling wildfires across the country. It said the amount of land on fire nationwide has been halved since Monday.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with foreign pilots on Tuesday to thank them for their help and hand out awards. Italy, France and Turkey joined former Soviet republics Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in sending aircraft and crews, he said, while other countries contributed firefighters and equipment.

“It was particularly nice to see that when misfortune came to our house, we did not have to ask anyone for help or support,” he said. “Practically all of our partners responded immediately, showing their solidarity with Russia.”

Drought has cost Russia a third of its wheat crop, prompting the government to ban wheat exports through the end of the year in a move that further spiked already soaring world grain prices. The government has promised subsidies to farmers and pledged to protect domestic consumers from unjustified price hikes.

Analysts: Impact Of Drought, Fires In Russia Offset By Other Economic Factors MOSCOW — Russia-based analysts say the economic impact of this summer’s destructive fires and drought will be offset by government spending and higher oil prices, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports.

Mark Rubenshtein, a Moscow-based financial analyst with the investment firm Metropol, told RFE/RL he predicts there will only be a minor slowing of overall economic growth in 2010 as a result of the disasters.

“The cost of damages caused by the extreme temperatures may be high [for certain] sectors,” Rubenshtein said. But he added that “on the other hand, dealing with the aftermath of the fires is tied to government spending. The growth [in government spending] will to a large extent even out the economic damage caused by the exceptional heat.”

Rubenshtein said funds to pay for the damage caused are available in Russia’s 2010 budget reserve, meaning a revision of the budget will not be necessary.

“At the same time, budget revenues are growing thanks to the growth in the price of oil,” he said. Rubenshtein predicted that the average price per barrel for Urals crude in 2010 will reach $76 to $78.

The Russian government’s previous official forecast was predicated on an annual average of $58 per barrel.

Yelena Penukhina, an analyst with the Center of Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Prognosis, also predicted that the budget deficit in 2010 will not be higher than 4.8 percent of GDP thanks to higher oil prices. She said the government’s management of the budget has improved noticeably.

“Judging by the results of the first half of the year, we can now say with certainty that there will not be an inflationary surge in [budget] spending in the last two months of the year,” Penukhina said.

“This year in Russia the administration of the budget really has improved,” she said. “In the first half of the year the government managed to allocate around 42 percent of all spending planned for the year. This is a record-high figure — it’s usually much lower — and indicates that so far this year budget funds have been allocated on an almost balanced timescale.”

Wildfires in central and western Russia have been burning for weeks. They have thus far killed at least 50 people and devastated hundreds of thousands of hectares of land. Some 500 fires are still burning and extensive drought along with the fires has severely affected the country’s agricultural sector. Source: /

Russia – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a meeting on wildfires with top officials from Moscow and the Moscow Region during his trip to Kolomna

The Prime Minister responded to Federal Forestry Agency head Alexei Savinov’s comment that wildfires were under control by saying: “The problem is that this kind of control cannot satisfy anyone. The situation is unacceptable.” The agency “has not hit the goals we need” despite annual allocations of 20 billion roubles, Mr Putin said.

Commenting on Moscow Region Governor Boris Gromov’s report on the plans to irrigate peat bogs, the prime minister asked Moscow municipal authorities to join the effort. He instructed Minister of Natural Resources Yury Trutnev to monitor the wildfire situation and to keep the public fully informed.

By way of conclusion, Mr Putin called on the regional governors to closely monitor weather changes and urgently respond to them to prevent emergencies.

Transcript of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Gromov, shall we start? Please, go ahead.

Boris Gromov: Mr Putin, we have drafted a special map of the Moscow Region showing the number of peat bogs in the region.

Vladimir Putin: How many are there? What is the total area?

Boris Gromov: All in all, there are 250 different peat bogs of varying sizes with a total area of about 160,000 square metres.

Vladimir Putin: 160,000 square metres?

Boris Gromov: Yes, square metres. I’m sorry, I meant to say hectares, of course.

We have planned to irrigate and even completely flood some of these plots, based on our experience of dealing with these peat bogs over the last ten years. We’ll first deal with those that are causing us the most trouble.

On this map we have marked the peat bogs that are currently being irrigated. Here’s where we are now and here are these areas. We are supplying water to five districts of the Moscow Region. The areas which we are planning to irrigate this year are outlined in this colour. We have chosen those which pose the greatest threat to the region’s territory, its businesses, communities and so on.

And, finally, we marked the peat bogs that we are planning to irrigate in the next two or three years. I reported to you about this plan.

This is how work is progressing. As of today, we have laid nine pipelines, including four fixed metal ones and the other are hoses. Under the plan we should have 14 pipes with a total length of about 300 km in the Moscow Region.

Vladimir Putin: Will they be fixed in place?

Boris Gromov: Yes, we are planning to lay them and keep them there for sometime until we reach our goal. But to do this, we should naturally… We are going to meet with our colleagues from the Defence Ministry, Tuesday, and will resolve all the issues on this pipeline team.

We have found people who dealt with these peat bogs in the Soviet times but they had to dry them out then. Now the goal is the opposite – to flood them using the same discarded channels.

Vladimir Putin: They did this part really well.

Boris Gromov: Yes, they did. But I do not doubt that they will also manage this situation.

Vladimir Putin: I hope so.

Boris Gromov: Besides this, we are also utilising… In the USSR we had mobile mechanised columns (MMC), which used to do this work. We found one of them in the Klin District and another in the Lukhovitsy District. I will find out later today how many columns we will have – five or six – for dealing with this problem.

In addition, to lay the pipeline faster, we have engaged teams of specialists from Mosoblgas (the Moscow Region’s gas supply company) who work on laying supply pipelines. This is the right task for them.

We have a plan detailing all the districts involved, the start and end dates for the work, the number of people involved, the equipment and so on. Out of 72 peat bogs with a total area of 63,000 hectares, we are planning to flood the most dangerous 22 sections with a total area of 6,653 hectares. This takes care of my report.

But may I ask you one more question?

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Boris Gromov: All these peat bogs are on the land that belongs to the State Forest Fund. Somehow, we must decide who is in charge. We must find someone who will manage this problem on a permanent basis.

Vladimir Putin: Fair enough, considering this land is registered with the State Forest Fund, they must have a person in charge. We’ll listen now to the head of this department. What are you doing? How many people are involved in fighting peat bog fires?

Boris Gromov: About 13,000 people are involved in fighting the fires, including about 10,000 firefighters. The remaining three thousand are assisting them.

Vladimir Putin: What about equipment?

Boris Gromov: About 3,000 units of equipment – 2,800 units to be exact, if we count the reserves. In addition, there are people involved from almost every district, every enterprise. Every district is divided into sections and a specific enterprise will be in charge of a certain section throughout the state of emergency.

In this context, we have organised everything.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Sergei Shoigu: The Moscow Region stocked up on portable fire extinguishers early enough. The people involved by the government from the Shatura District, from some enterprises – they are mostly those who are…

Vladimir Putin: I’ve seen them. They are also working here.

Sergei Shoigu: The second part of the work, laying pipes, is a major effort. We’ve planned everything. Teams of specialists inspected every section and determined where to direct the water. Everything has been taken care of.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Savinov, how is work going in your agency?

Alexei Savinov: Mr Putin, July 29 and July 30 were somewhat chaotic days. A serious fire passed through many communities, causing some confusion.

However, we managed to put out almost all these fires in three to four days. There were eight fires yesterday. Apart from the fires that are almost put out, according to Mr Gromov, new fires appear each day and cover about 24,000 hectares (59,259 acres) of the forests in the Moscow Region. I must say here that the majority of fires are in the Meshchera Lowlands. The rest of the fires in the Moscow Region are under control. We extinguish the fires on the same day they appear. Areas with peat bogs and forests on peat soil pose more problems. As soon as a fire touches a peat bog, it goes deeper, and more people are needed to extinguish it. A large group is working there: the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief, the Ministry of Defence, the regional authorities, and our forest rangers. Forest rangers put out most active fires, as a rule – there are about 400 of them here, in this group, and they use our machines.

I can say that the situation is under control. The fire has hardly proceeded any further in past few days, so we believe the situation has normalised and is under control.

Mr Putin, the only thing I would like to mention on this occasion (Mr Gromov also spoke about this problem) is that these peat bogs are hardly managed by anyone, especially the peat bogs that were used for fuel production. It is clear that they are abandoned. So, as we see, everything is interrelated, and peat bog fires and forest fires trigger each other. So we have some problems here, but I would say the situation is under control.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Savinov, the problem is no one is satisfied with this control! What kind of control is it if millions of Muscovites are suffocating with smoke? What are you controlling, I do not understand?!

Alexei Savinov: Mr Putin, I…

Vladimir Putin: I understand that the situation may be even worse. It’s good that the current situation is not the worst possible, but it is still unacceptable. So what we are doing now is right: we are acting in an emergency situation, and flooding these peat bogs is a mandatory measure. So, Mr Trutnev, what damage is being done to the environment, in your opinion? We consider each tree, but it does not seem serious now that thousands of hectares of land is on fire and millions of people are choking on smoke. It is clear we should do everything to minimise the damage to the environment. But, I would like to emphasise this: this is an emergency and we should care about the people affected first of all. Nevertheless, my question to you is how peat bog irrigation is going and, second, about hazardous material and pollution. Please comment on this issue.

Yury Trutnev: First, I should say that we are felling trees together with the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief when it is necessary to save more forest area. I mean that if this work had not been done or had been done slower, much more forests would have died. As for the environment, we do not see any threat posed by irrigation here, as nature will return to its original state before drying out. In addition, our current energy strategy stipulates peat production, but is it necessary now? We have sufficient deposits of natural gas and a large-scale nuclear energy program.

I believe the restoration of a number of swamplands to their original state would benefit the environment, bringing back species that used to live there. We cannot see any environmental threats connected to this. We’ve already asked ecologists for advice on the matter. <….>

Vladimir Putin: So, damage was done when they were drained, right?

Yury Trutnev: Exactly, Mr Putin. Now we should get back to nature, restoring a balance. And the issue of wildfires nearing hazardous sites, including radioactive dumps or nuclear power plants: there is no danger. No dangerous pollution levels have been detected at any such site, with a 100-kilometer area monitored. As for the possibility of radioactive contamination, there’s no threat of that happening at the moment. We keep monitoring the developments.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Luzhkov, we’ve just discussed the decision you made to provide assistance to two of Russia’s regions. I appreciate it. But as the mayor of Moscow, you are responsible above all for the city and the surrounding areas. The situation here remains a complicated one. In this regard, do you think you could help the Moscow Region in any way?

Yury Luzhkov: Mr Putin, in the first few days, we worked in close cooperation with the Emergencies Ministry, and from the resources we had at our disposal in Moscow, we sent about 600 types of equipment and some 650 people to the Moscow Region and to other areas, including ones in the Volga Basin. That’s my first point. This actually left Moscow more vulnerable, but still the situation was manageable. In Moscow, fire danger levels have remained steady, even more so than they are usually.

I’ve got several proposals to make. We need water. Water should be provided throughout the year, including in the wintertime. I will now submit the proposals we’ve developed to Mr Gromov. We have completely formed projects here, with economic and technical calculations. It’s about the warm water that we send to the Moskva River after it goes through Lyubertsy filtration fields (it’s cleaner than the water in the Moskva River, actually). We propose that that water should be pumped over here in a large amount. It should be pumped in for several years running, in summer as in winter (as it gets heated to 18 degrees Celsius). And the pipe should be a metre or even a metre-and-a-half, so that sufficient quantities can be transported. This would make it possible for the region to rapidly solve the problem of flooding.

Secondly, we should again invite experts that were once involved in setting up irrigation infrastructure here. Now the challenge will be to obstruct irrigation canals with dams preventing natural waters from flowing away. It’s a very serious problem.

Thirdly, Mr Putin, there’s a need (and I go along with the minister on this) to resume the operations of peat enterprises on large peat deposits. The thing is that if an enterprise is operating, no peat fires will break out on its grounds. We have quite a few examples of peat companies taking care of their own fire safety because if they don’t, the staff will find themselves out of work. So both the employers and the employees make sure fire safety rules are obeyed. But peat is not a fuel that could compete with oil or natural gas. So along with restoring large peat enterprises, we should also create favourable conditions for peat producers that would level off their disadvantages compared with other producers of hydrocarbons.

These three steps could bring a systemic improvement, Mr Putin. Of these, the key one is described here, in this folder; it concerns pumping large quantities of water through pipelines. That water gets heated to 18 degrees Celsius and it can be supplied here all year round. As for its purity, it’s cleaner than the Moskva River’s water.

Vladimir Putin: Fine. You know, I’ve checked some figures and materials… We annually allocate over 20 billion roubles for the needs of the timber industry; 2.5 billion roubles for reafforestation and another 2.5 billion for extinguishing wildfires and their prevention, which adds up to 5 billion. Last year, we gave out 800 million for the region’s needs, and we’ve allocated about 650-700 million so far this year. These are large enough amounts of money, provided that they are wisely spent. Let me emphasise once again: if spent sensibly, those funds would produce the desired results. But that hasn’t happened, unfortunately.

It’s true that nature has not been easy on us lately, in fact, it’s been quite a challenge. Yesterday, we had a cold front pass across the northwestern part of the country, causing storm winds in the Leningrad, Pskov, and Novgorod regions. It went up there; now it’s turning around and may continue on to the north. But this simply means that we must come together and start working shoulder to shoulder, fully aware of our responsibilities, and that we must act faster and more effectively. We need to work proactively, whatever other surprises nature may have in store for us.

As I watch water flowing, I wonder where public money is flowing. I’ve signed a government resolution (I mentioned it earlier) on the allocation of 300 million roubles to the Moscow Region. I asked you last week, Mr Gromov, to draw up a long-term plan, for two or three years ahead. It’ll have to come with feasibility studies, of course. Mr Luzhkov, I’d like you to contribute as well, teaming up with colleagues from the Moscow Region to improve the environmental conditions in your city as well as in the surrounding region.

I expect your agencies to continue monitoring the environmental situation in all areas, so that the public gets a clear, vivid picture of the developments we are facing.

I won’t discuss the Emergencies Ministry today, as we’ve talked about it quite often recently – these people are doing their best. I hope they continue to do so. As I said at the previous meeting, there’s still a long way to go. So hard work is what I expect of the timber industry as well.

We’ll take up the issue in the next few days, as it remains a complicated and significant problem. That’s all for today. Thank you. Source:

Russia’s Medvedev Asks Tycoons For Wildfire Help

Date: 17-Aug-10

Russia's Medvedev Asks Tycoons For Wildfire Help Photo: Mikhail Voskresensky
A resident walks through the smoke from a wildfire near the village of Kartanosovo in Ryazan region, some 200 km (124 miles) southeast of Moscow, August 14, 2010.Photo: Mikhail Voskresensky

President Dmitry Medvedev asked Russia’s business elite Monday to help rebuild villages destroyed by fierce wildfires after rain and strong winds looked set to end weeks of unprecedented heat.

Russia has been battling its worst heatwave which has killed dozens in wildfires over the past 50 days and doubled the death rate in the capital Moscow by blanketing it in toxic smoke.

Grain crops have been destroyed and economists predict the country could lose $14 billion of its gross domestic product this year.

Medvedev summoned the tycoons — including the owner of the world’s largest aluminum firm RUSAL, Oleg Deripaska, and shareholder in nickel miner Norilsk Nickel Vladimir Potanin — to his Black Sea summer residence in Sochi.

“Taking into account society’s attitude toward this problem and the scale of the disaster, I believe we can address how entrepreneurs can take part in dealing with the consequences,” Medvedev said.

Addressing Medvedev, Deripaska promised to build fifty houses. Vladimir Yevtushenkov, head of oil-to-telecoms holding company Sistema, said he was ready to contribute up to 20 million roubles ($654,900) for reconstruction.

Russia’s leaders have in the past requested business leaders to take part in state-backed social or industrial projects. The businessmen, most of whom profited from controversial privatisations in the 1990s, usually oblige.

The government has promised houses worth up to 2 million roubles ($65,490) for all 3,000 people left homeless by the fires.

Russia’s weather forecasting service said Monday rains are expected in drought-hit European Russia on August 16-18 while adding that the threat of new fires remained strong.

Separately Monday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited burning peat bogs around Moscow to oversee efforts to flood them. The operation is projected to cost $1 billion.

Putin also ordered local authorities to deal with hurricanes that have left thousands of homes without electricity in northwestern Russia and disrupted railway traffic between Moscow and St Petersburg.

The wildfires have exposed poverty in Russia’s rural areas where jobs are scarce and where many scratch out a living cultivating land plots and picking berries in forests.

“To be honest, life was not that sweet there even before the fires,” Medvedev said. “Everything burned there. It will be impossible to pick mushrooms and wild berries in the next few years.” Source: Planetark

Vladimir Putin’s tangled web cams

JULIA Gillard could take a tip from Vladimir Putin to ensure value for money in the Building the Education Revolution.

She could have web cams from the 12,000 odd sites around the country broadcasting straight into her office.

In a bid to monitor the reconstruction effort after the devastating bushfires of the past few weeks, the Russian Prime Minister has ordered the footage broadcast into his office, home and on his own website.

However, the people of a nation that endured 74 years of Soviet rule have found a way to thwart Big Brother.

Instead of charging twice as much as the standard building rate and passing it off as “site fees” – as has happened under the BER in Australia – the Russians have just turned the cameras around. Rather than showing workers building – or not – the hundreds of homes needed before the Russian winter, the footage is of open fields.

Deputy Regional Development Minister Konstantin Korolevsky said on Friday he had ordered the cameras be “pointed at where work is actually going on”.

He said that from the pictures so far, it was “not always clear if work is actually going on and it’s not always clear that they correspond to the plan”.

However, the Communications Ministry spat back that the only problem was that their experts had installed the cameras faster than the Regional Development Ministry could start any work.

“All the cameras will be pointed at the building sites once work actually starts,” a ministry official told the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The scheme – part of a major effort by Mr Putin to show the authorities have the wildfire crisis under control – has so far not been a rousing success.

The images from about 30 villages so far show only still pictures rather than videos and the site does not appear to be properly functioning.

Some of the images show obvious reconstruction sites but others merely show peaceful country lanes or fields.

Among the villages being monitored is Verkhnyaya Vereya, which was destroyed in the fires and then visited by Mr Putin, where he received unusual heckling from villagers.

Authorities said last night they were beating back the bushfires, including one close to the main nuclear research centre in Sarov, as parts of the parched country were hit by thunderstorms and torrential rain.

The peat and forest fires in the countryside of central Russia have killed more than 50 people and raised concerns about the security of potentially dangerous strategic sites.

The Emergencies Ministry said that nationwide, the area affected by wildfires had been reduced by another 8000ha to 45,800ha. At the peak of the crisis, an area of almost 200,000ha was on fire.

Temperatures in Moscow were 29 degrees, well down on the highs of almost 40 degrees seen over recent days.

Moscow was braced for torrential rain and high winds after tens of thousands in northwest Russia were without electricity overnight when a storm ripped through the region.

The images are viewable on Putin’s website at:       Source: The AUSTRALIAN

Russian Storms Cut Power to 96,000 People; Area Consumed by Fires ShrinksStorms in northwest Russia knocked out power to about 96,000 people as emergency crews made headway in their battle against wildfires that have blackened 856,903 hectares (3,309 square miles) this year.

The storms yesterday in four regions, including the Leningrad region around St. Petersburg, packed winds as high as 30 meters per second (67 mph), the Emergency Situations Ministry said on its website today. Almost 79,000 people still had no electricity at 6 a.m. local time, and all customers should have power back by 8 p.m., the ministry said.

The area of active fires in central Russia “significantly decreased” in the last 24 hours, said Vladimir Stepanov, head of the ministry’s crisis center. Crews reduced the fire area by 8,000 hectares to 45,800 hectares in the period, according to the ministry.

Russia’s heartland has been buffeted in recent months by record heat and the worst drought in half a century, which have hobbled agriculture, forcing 29 crop-producing regions to declare states of emergency.

Firefighters may be aided today by a cold front moving through parts of central Russia, including the Moscow region, which will bring showers and occasional hail, the Federal Hydrometeorological and Environmental Monitoring Service said on its website.

Heat Wave

Greenpeace Russia said the fire situation remains “extremely tense and dangerous, though for the first time in a month there’s hope that it may change soon” as rains and cooler temperatures are in the forecast. “It’s still too early to relax,” the environmental watchdog group said on its website.

In Moscow, which set a heat record of 38.2 degrees Celsius (101 degrees Fahrenheit) on July 29, temperatures will remain in the 30s this week before dipping to a high of 23 degrees Celsius on Aug. 20, the state Hydrometeorological Center said on its website.

The capital continued to enjoy a respite from the acrid smoke that smothered it for about three weeks. Pollution levels were within safe limits at noon today, the city’s environmental protection department said on its website.

Three fires were burning yesterday in the Bryansk region, which was contaminated by radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster in 1986, Vladimir Chuprov, an energy campaigner with Greenpeace Russia, said by telephone today.

Radioactive Materials

A threat that radiation will be disseminated via wind and smoke from fires on contaminated land remains, Chuprov said.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said a small fire covering one hectare was burning in the Bryansk region yesterday. “There is no threat that radioactive materials will spread,” regional ministry spokeswoman Irina Yegorushkina said by telephone.

The ministry has no information on fires in the region today, Yegorushkina said.

The Hydrometeorological Center said monitoring in a 100- kilometer (62-mile) zone around Russian nuclear facilities since the fire season began has indicated no increase in background radiation. Source: /

Russians flock to wildfire sites in search of excitement

As Russia’s firefighters make enormous efforts to fight hundreds of wildfires raging across the country, ordinary citizens are stepping up to help. However, it turns out their motives are not as heroic as they may seem.

While to many the wildfires are an incentive to leave as far as possible from their source, some tend to take volunteer firefighting as some sort of extreme sport.

Volunteer groups are being dispatched to combat wildfires everyday. However, according to fire-prevention centers, their main goal is not extinguishing the fires, but getting fun photos.

Images of 12-year-old children wearing a firefighter’s kit are common on Internet social sites these days. 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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