Russia: The 1995 Forest Fire Season (IFFN No. 14)

The 1995 Forest Fire Season

(IFFN No. 14 – January 1996, p. 9-12)

The special service for aerial fire protection of the forest resources against fires headed by the Central Aviation Base for Aerial Forest Fire Protection of Russia (Avialesookhrana) was integrated into the system of the Federal Forestry Service of Russia (Rosleshoz).

Aerial forest fire protection is carried out by 329 sub-divisions incorporated into 23 regional aviation bases. Active forest fire control is conducted on an area over 700 million hectares of forests under the jurisdiction of Rosleshoz and on over 110 million ha of forests under the responsibility and management of other agencies. 26 mechanized crews for combating forest fires are operating in the regional aviation bases. All activities of Avialesookhrana concentrate exclusively on forest fire protection.

More than 5,000 smokejumpers and helirappellers are engaged in fighting forest fires (Fig.1). In 1995 more than 22,000 fires were recorded in the forests of Rosleshoz, affecting 321,000 ha (Fig.3). The fire season started 1-2 weeks earlier than in previous years. In April about 3000 forest fires occurred (2.2 times more than in April 1994). Despite the growing number of forest fires, the burned area was reduced by 112,000 ha or 25% in comparison with 1994. The most complicated situation arose in the Khabarovsk and Krasnoyarsk territories, Irkutsk and the Amur regions as well as in the Sakha (Yakut) Republics. 270 large forest fires burned 220,500 ha or 68.8% of all burned wildlands. In the regions with extreme fire danger large numbers of firefighting personnel and equipment were transferred within the regional fire centres and from bases to bases. It should be mentioned that the mobilization of local labour power and necessary equipment is becoming more and more difficult due to the movement of our society to the market economy and the fact that agencies and the local industry have gained independence.

During the 1995 fire season 600 aircraft were rented, including 50% helicopters, flying more than 60,000 hours on fire operations. The smokejumpers performed 34,000 jumps and the rappellers made 50,000 interventions from helicopters.

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Fig.1. Smokejumper landing near a fire site in Siberia during the 1995 fire season.

Significant attention has been paid to the use of airtankers in the lake Baikal basin. In 1995 air tankers operated on 19,200 ha in the subdivisions of the Baikal, Irkutsk and Chita aviation bases. According to the records for many years, on average 600 forest fires started annually in the above mentioned territories, burning 25,500 ha. In 1995 a total of 802 fires burned 4328 ha. The individual fire size was reduced from 9.8 ha (in 1994) to 5.4 ha (in 1995). A total of 29 airplanes was involved in forest fire suppression. Additionally three heavy amphibious BE-12P water bombers, each carrying 6000 litres of water, were used since they were under testing in that area.

The three-year experience of testing the BE-12P proved its high efficiency, provided that the distance to reservoirs for scooping water should be located within the operating radius of 70-80 km. These operations completed the initial step for introducing amphibious planes into the general technological scheme carried out by the aviation subdivisions of Irkutsk region.

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Fig.2. The use of explosives for fire line construction represents an efficient fire control method applied by Russian smokejumpers and helirappellers.

In the course of the last three years 1161 aerial water drops were performed, delivering 6966 tons of water (1995: 698 drops and 4188 tons of water). A total of 341 hours were flown by the three amphibious planes.

Under the “State Programme for Forest Protection for 1995-1997” the introduction of the AN-2P plane modified for extinguishing forest fires was continued. Five AN-2P were used in Karelia, two in Bashkiria and two in the Briansk Region.

The Central Aviation Base for Aerial Forest Fire Protection Avialesookhrana took the necessary measures for the establishment of its own aviation company. At present one such type aviation subdivision is attached to the Northeast regional base (Magadan). This subdivision has received 12 AN-2P, two AN-26 and six helicopters MI-8. In addition the Vladimir State Aviation Company, which provides 30 AN-2 and two AN-24, has been incorporated into the structure of Avialesookhrana in 1995. Twelve AN-2 are planned to be converted into AN-2P for aerial fire suppression. For more details on aircraft technologies see the International Forest Fire News issues of July 1994 and July 1995.

The causes of fires in 1994 are distributed to as follows:

Human origin 63.0 % Dry lightning 10.9 % Agricultural burning 4.6 % Forest logging operations 1.4 % Unknown causes 20.1 %

Lightning-caused fires burned 49% of the total area affected by fire.

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Fig.3. Number of fires and area burned in the USSR/Russia between 1986 and 1995.

In order to implement the “State Programme for Forest Protection” the system of remote sensing for forecasting and detecting fires caused by lightning was established in 1994 in Khabarorsk territory. The results of its use are encouraging. In 1994, 26 forest fire hot spots were detected by that system. The deployment of such systems is foreseen in the Primorsk and Kranoyrsk territories as well as in the Amur, Irkutsk and Tiumen regions.

From: Nikolay Andreev
Chief, Avialesookhrana
National Aerial Forest Fire Protection Center
Gorkogo St. 20
RUS – 141200 Pushkino,
Moscow Region

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