A demarcation dispute among Russian officials has hindered efforts to put out a forest fire near Vyborg. Under rigid regulations in force in the area, putting out forest fires is the task of firefighters employed by forestry districts, while fire brigades employed by rescue services are called in only if the fire threatens residential areas.
Finnish fire officials visiting the area overheard an argument between two officials from the different firefighting organisations at a landfill that had also caught fire.
“Your men say that they cannot drive here into the forest with their fire engines. You could even get here in a Lada!” said head forest manager Sergei Bezlyudnyi to Aleksei Losev, head of the Vyborg rescue service.
Firefighters of the forestry district said that burning trash from the landfill had spread the flames into the surrounding forest.
Markku Kirvesniemi, rescue inspector for the State Provincial Office of Southern Finland, said that the visit showed that real-time cross-border communication needs to be improved.
The map shows the location of the forest fire (metsäpalo) near Vyborg (Viipuri) in Russia (Venäjä) near the border with Finland (Suomi). A Russian firefighter is mopping up after a forest fire near Vyborg. Photo: ANDRE SAMOYLOV Conscripts based in Rovaniemi were sent to help battle a forest fire in Kemijärvi in Finnish Lapland. Photo: JAAKKO HEIKKILÄ
Timo Forsman, fire chief of the southeast border city of Imatra, compared the firefighting methods and technology in use in the two countries.
“In Finland we would perhaps have more personnel and hoses. However, the greatest difference is that we would never allow fires to get this big. This is linked with cultural differences: in Russia forest fires are accepted, and people do not necessarily even report them.”
Forsman also felt that the fire at the landfill appeared less serious than feared; the material at the dump comprised mainly household waste and construction debris, whose combustion did not pose a threat to Finland.
The situation in the Karelian Isthmus appeared to have eased somewhat. On Tuesday evening, there were 47 forest fires in the Vyborg District.
There are also serious fires at the border with Estonia. It is those fires which are the source of the smoke which darkened Helsinki recently.
Meanwhile, in Finnish Lapland, firefighters have managed to contain a large forest fire that has been burning in Kemijärvi. The fire, which was detected on Tuesday, had destroyed more than 60 hectares of forest.
Firefighting efforts had been encumbered by the remote location of the blaze. Forestry machinery were used to clear away trees so that firefighting equipment could be brought closer. Conscripts have also been mobilised in the effort.