Aerial forest and deer pasture fire protection in 1992 has been conducted on more than 827.3 million ha of the territory of the Russian Federation. The Avialesookhrana Production Association consists of the 19 Aerial Fire Centres which are subdivided into 352 operational divisions. Up to 830 aircraft have been envisaged to be leased for aerial operations. In 1992 686 flying forest fire observers provided fire detection, suppression and other services in accordance with their duties. Due to the lack of financial resources the total number of smokejumpers and helirapellers had been reduced to 6400. According to operational data on the 1st of November about 25,000 fires on an area burning of 580,000 ha occurred in the forest of the Russian Federation. The most severe fire situations arose in the Middle and Western parts of European Russia. In the Moscow region, for example, 50-60 fires occurred daily in August.
Some Western areas of the former USSR, such as Belarus, the Baltic states and the westernmost parts of Russia (Kaliningradskaya Region) experienced very dry weather, and thus a great number of forest fires. During the 1992 fire season the number of fires increased by 37.7 % and the area burned decreased by 38.0 % compared with the average over the last 5 years. The average area per individual fire was reduced from 61.5 ha to 23.8 ha. 447 wildfires were registered as large fires (“large fire” = area burned > 200 ha in aerial protection zone and 25 ha in the ground zone).
The distribution and number of large fires throughout the Taiga forests were as follows: Irkutsk Region (65), Krasnoyarsk Region (47), Yakutsk Region (32), Buriatia Region (32), Sankt Petersburg Region (69) (see also fire distribution map, Fig.1).
Particular attention in Russia is given to the protection of forests in the Baikal watershed. In 1992, in the Baikal region, an area of 18.4 million ha was under aerial and ground control. The number of airborne personnel reached over 600 firefighters. During the 1992 season 518 wildfires occurred in the region, burning 8,872 ha or 17.1 ha per fire (5-year area average per fire: 39.5 ha). Experimental work involving prescribed burning for fire hazard reduction was conducted on a forested area of ca. 200,000 ha.
One of the weaker points of the Russian forest fire control system is the rather limited experience in production and utilization of airtankers. In the 1992 fire season four AN-26P aircraft were tested in fire fighting operations in Sibiria (tank capacity 4,000 litres). One small AN-2 aircraft equipped with a 1,000 litre tank was tested in areas contaminated by radionuclides from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident (see also contribution by Dusha-Gudym, International Forest Fire News No.7, August 1992).
A few experimental flights with IL-76 (40,000 litres) aircraft were carried out this summer and a decision was made to produce several more models for the 1993 season. The initial results of the tests raise our hope in the widespread application of airtankers in future. But at the same time we must make efforts to develop a network of retardant bases. In this case the experience of western agencies would be very much appreciated.
In the last two years we have tested an airborne aerosol generator for seeding clouds to draw rain on burning areas. The results were positive. Our system of radiocommunication is to be improved. That is why we have conducted experiments using satellites at a distance of more than 3,000 km. Avialesookhrana has significant experience in the conversion of military hardware into forest fire fighting equipment. This task is being conducted jointly with Russian research institutes. Such activities are considered to be quite promising (see also special coverage on forest fires in the Russian Federation, International Forest Fire News No.6,January 1992).
The last fire season, especially during its first half, was burdened by the economic problems of our country. In spite of this, the government did allocate some financial resources, providing Avialesookhrana with its minimal needs. In the second half of 1992 additional funds were provided for leasing aircraft and firefighting equipment procurement. This allowed us to carry out inter-regional movements of overhead personnel to hot spots. There were 52 operations carried out with a total of 1,470 airborne personnel transported directly to fires. Despite the shortage of resources the Aerial Forest Fire Protection Service of Russia is projected to finish the year with satisfactory results. Big catastrophic fires have been prevented thanks to the well organized fire control system. There have been no reported deaths caused by forest fires and no homes or other facilities have been reported as being burned. In conclusion, it is important to note, that the only agency in Russia for aerial forest fire protection is Avialesookhrana.
Fig 1. Map of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) showing the locations of the Aerial Fire Centres of Avialesookhrana and the locations (shaded areas) of the main large fires during the 1992 fire season.
Fig.2. Monthly distribution of fires (number of fires) in the Russian Federation during the 1992 fire season as compared to the average of the years 1987-1991.
Fig.3. Monthly distribution of area burned in the Russian Federation during the 1992 fire season as compared to the average of the years 1987-1991.
From: Alexander I. Beliaev & Eduard P.Davidenko Address: P.A. Avialesookhrana Gorky Street, 20 141200 Pushkino, Moscow Region RUSSIAN FEDERATION