The 1994 forest fire season in the Russian Federation can be marked as an extremely high fire load in the East Siberia region. The burnt area in Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and Jakutsk districts comprised together 362,000 ha, corresponding to more than 70% of the total area burnt on the territory under permanent aerial control in Russia. 327 forest fires went out of control, and they were recorded as large fires (>200 ha). The stable midsummer drought and shortage of resources for firefighting favoured the recurrence and spreading of large fires. The economic crisis in Russia has had a negative influence on the organization of forest fire protection on the whole. In 41 cases the decisions to stop firefighting operations were taken due to lack of resources. For instance it happened with 29 fires in the Irkutsk region, 3 in the Krasnoyarsk area, 3 in Yakutia, 3 in the Magadan region and 1 fire in the Khabarovsk region. Nevertheless, in spite of lot of negative points Avialesookhrana (Aerial Forest Fire Service) has so far managed to maintain the readiness for action and professionalism of its specialists at a sufficient level.
Without any assistance from other agencies smokejumpers and helirappellers from Avialesookhrana independently put out 3056 forest fires, mostly in remote inaccessible areas of boreal taiga.
There is also progress in the technology of supporting the ground forces by dropping retardants from airtankers. During the last season 8 airtankers out of 570 planned aircraft rendered assistance in fighting 51 fires. A total of 20 water bombing tanks (capacity: 1200 l) for the AN-2 plane (our “work horse”) are planned to be produced by the fire season of 1995. Avialesookhrana is considering the further expansion of the use of specially equipped aircraft combating forest fires and expanding initial attacks as the priority in its technical development.
It is appropriate to say some words about international cooperation in forest fire protection. It is quite natural that any state or nation which has forest and other fire-threatened vegetation formations (steppes, savannas etc.) creates appropriate infrastructure for wildfire protection. As a rule expenses for the establishment of such full-scale operational structures are very high and they are beyond the capability of many nations.
In addition, wildfires are seasonal phenomena and do not occur regularly. This is why maintaining large amounts of fire equipment and specialists is often economically very questionable. It is much more appropriate to have mobile, well trained and equipped crews under the auspices of UN, which, depending on the situation, could monitor the international fire situation and intervene with the most up-to-date equipment, including aircraft and helicopters. International forest fire brigades could act by moving from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere and vice-versa, taking into account that hemispheric fire seasons are opposite. These ideas are well presented in the proposals of the FAO/ECE/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire in International Forest Fire News No. 11 (p. 36). It is desirable to know the opinions of managers, specialists and scientists of other countries, so you are invited to write to:
Eduard P. Davidenko
Avialesookhrana National Aerial Forest Fire Center Gorkogo St. 20 RU – 141200 Pushkino, Moscow Region