In Russia for several weeks forest fires are raging. The disaster affected several regions at once, and an emergency regime was introduced in four regions of the country: it operates throughout the Irkutsk Region and Krasnoyarsk Territory, and also partially in Buryatia and Yakutia. It implies that additional measures and forces are thrown to resolve the situation. Another forty-two subjects of the country have a special fire safety regime. This means additional (but less powerful) measures to extinguish fires and ensure safety - for example, people can be prohibited from visiting forest areas.
There are quite understandable reasons for such serious measures. According to Avialesokhrana, in three regions - Krasnoyarsk Territory, Irkutsk Region and Yakutia - the area of fires is approaching 3 million hectares. The agency reports that these fires are not extinguished, since there is "no threat to settlements and economic facilities and the projected costs of extinguishing them exceed the predicted harm that they may cause." Such a decision, of course, does not suit either local residents or Russians in general - the petition demanding the introduction of an emergency regime throughout Siberia was signed by more than seven hundred thousand people. A similar petition from Greenpeace calling to save territories from forest fires has nearly 200,000 signatures. In Novosibirsk, residents are organizing single pickets demanding that an emergency regime be introduced throughout Siberia. We decided to figure out what was happening - and why we decided not to extinguish vast territories today.
Forest fires are a familiar situation in Russia, but this summer they have reached a special scale. According to the Ministry of Emergency Situations and Rosleskhoz, fires are recorded annually in Russia on an area of 500 thousand to 3.5 million hectares. This summer the figure is already approaching its maximum - on July 30, Avialesokhrana registered active fires on an area of about 3 million hectares, they continue in ten regions. The most difficult situation is in three of them: Krasnoyarsk Territory, Irkutsk Region and Yakutia.
At the same time, a significant part of the area is made up of the so-called control zones - remote areas where there should be no people. The authorities may decide not to extinguish fires in these territories if they do not threaten settlements and economic objects, and the rescue of forests itself is considered economically unprofitable - this is exactly what happens in many territories. Over the past day, the area of fires in such zones has increased by about seventy thousand hectares. At the same time, environmental activists insist that the zones of control are actually not as deserted as they are trying to be presented - according to them, there are settlements on the borders of these zones. In addition, in addition to people, it is worth thinking about the state of the forest - the plants and animals living in it. According to ecologists, it is impossible to estimate how many wild animals die in the fire. With the damage to forests, everything is no less difficult: according to WWF ecologists, three times more forest perishes in fires annually than the forest industry develops. It is important that the damage is calculated at the lowest cost of wood that can be harvested - so that economically fire can be considered inexpensive. Not all trees die in forest fires, but the full scale of the problem can only be estimated after a few years: some trees do not die immediately.
The situation is also complicated by the smoke - because of the burning territories, several neighboring territories have been sucked in by smog at once. For example, smoke from fires in the northern part of Siberia reached the Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Kemerovo regions, Altai Territory and the Republic of Khakassia. According to media reports, smog also reached Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Tyumen, Perm and Chelyabinsk, and at the end of last week it could be felt in Tatarstan.Grigory Kuksin, head of the fire department of the Russian branch of Greenpeace, said yesterday that theoretically the smoke from the Siberian fires could reach Moscow. But Roshydromet noted that this is almost impossible - this would require certain meteorological conditions to stably hold out for more than one week.
The extent to which forest fires and smog from them affect health is still little understood - but researchers note that combustion products can settle in the lungs. Doctors believe that potentially prolonged exposure to smog can contribute to the development of asthma and allergies. The Ministry of Health of the Omsk region said that because of the smoke, the number of calls to the ambulance increased by more than 15%. The Ministry of Emergency Situations recommended that residents of the Tomsk region be outdoors as little as possible, take a shower more often, drink more water and wear gauze masks.
Why did the fires occur?
In Rosleskhoz, the fires are explained by abnormal weather conditions: heat in the absence of precipitation, dry thunderstorms, insufficient snow cover in winter. In other departments, they find similar explanations: in the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, for example, they talk about a thirty-degree heat, no precipitation and dry thunderstorms; in the Irkutsk region, the bulk of fires are attributed to lightning strikes. In addition to them, the human factor is also mentioned - the Ministry of Natural Resources explains to them about a third of the fires in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Experts note, for example, that often people set fire to the grass to get rid of the old and dry. In addition, bonfires and unextinguished cigarette butts can contribute to the fire.
Unusually powerful fires are also associated with the ecological situation, or more precisely, with climate change. Stefan Kruse, a researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, for example, says that global warming leads to the fact that there are more extreme weather events in the world: somewhere there are heavy rains for a long time, somewhere, on the contrary, powerful droughts leading to forest fires. This year the Irkutsk region has faced both that and with another: at the beginning of summer in the region there was a flood, and now there are strong forest fires there.
What awaits us next
The Governor of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Alexander Uss, considers the situation to be acute, but controlled. At a meeting with SibFU students, when he was asked whether it is really inexpedient to extinguish fires, Uss compared them to a blizzard or an iceberg: "Does it ever occur to anyone to drown an iceberg so that it would be warmer here?" “It so happens that these fires are extinguished mainly by natural means - precipitation,” the official said. - Time of arrival there, imagine, two or three hours. And [amphibious aircraft] Be-200 carries ten tons of water, that doesn't solve any problems. And this is a huge cost."
“The situation got out of control precisely because it was initially decided not to extinguish the fires while they are small,” says Grigory Kuksin from Greenpeace. - This procedure has been in effect since 2015. Then the practice, historically formed from poverty, was formally legalized - there is no money, no fuel, no planes to send firefighters to remote areas. Since Soviet times, many fires have not been extinguished - there was no space monitoring, and no one counted them."
Economic inexpediency is the main reason that is officially addressed when it comes to a dire fire situation. But, perhaps, thanks to the attention of society to the problem, the situation will nevertheless change. “We know that there is a corresponding method of the Federal Forestry Agency, which allows not to extinguish the fire if there is no threat to economic facilities,” said Yury Lapshin, Chairman of the Krasnoyarsk Territory Government. - But the scale of fires this year is large. Therefore, where there is even a hypothetical threat to settlements and economic facilities, it is necessary to build up the grouping and work along the edges of the fire. "Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev today instructed the head of the Ministry of Natural Resources Dmitry Kobylkin to personally monitor the situation with fires. Kobylkin himself today instructed the heads of regions and Rosleskhoz to revise the boundaries of forest fire control zones in order to protect settlements not only from fire, but also from smoke. The deadline for the execution of this order, however, is the end of August.
Environmental activists are not sure that these measures will help resolve the situation this season. “We support this decision of the minister, but, unfortunately, this season it is unlikely to solve anything, even if significant areas are removed from the control zones,” said Mikhail Kreindlin, an expert at the Russian branch of Greenpeace Russia. “The areas of fires this season are already such that even the forces that can be used are still not enough to extinguish them.”
Experts give a disappointing forecast - in their opinion, only rains can systemically affect the situation, since time is lost. In addition, everything is complicated by the poor accessibility of the territories - strong smoke, the absence of roads and large areas of fire make the fight against fire even more difficult. For the rest, experts believe that it is possible to try to change the situation at specific points - for example, to protect settlements or individual sections of the forest.
PHOTOS: wabeno - stock.adobe.com, ozaiachin - stock.adobe.com