The most complicated situation is being suffered by the Yakutia region, where the fire already covers more than 600,000 hectares of forest
The high temperatures that Russia as a whole and Siberia in particular are registering during the current month of July, the most extreme in decades, are again causing strong fires in different areas of the country. Eight regions have had to declare a state of emergency and the total area devastated in the entire country exceeds one million hectares, according to the Ministry of Civil Protection of Russia (MChS in its acronym in Russian).
The most complicated situation is being suffered by the Siberian region of Yakutia, where the fire already covers more than 600,000 hectares of forest. The flames also engulf forest areas in Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Magadan, the Chukotka Peninsula and Chelyabinsk. In 2019 a similar situation was experienced in different regions of Siberia, also in Yakutia, but experts warn that this year the situation may become worse due to excessive heat and the absence of rain. The Greenpeace antenna in Russia attributes this worsening to global warming.
The authorities of Yakutia, a huge region, the largest in Russia, located in central Siberia and sparsely populated, was the first to declare a state of emergency. Greenpeace has sent volunteers there concerned about what might happen to the Lena Pillars National Park, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012. It had to be closed to the public on July 9 due to the fire.
With them, the American actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, whose foundation has previously focused on the fires in Siberia, thought to have gone, but the local authorities have advised him not to go where they do not call him. Activist Rosa Diachkovskaya was the one who asked DiCaprio to take action on the matter and is now being criticized in Yakutia for questioning the regional operation’s ability to cope with the disaster.
In this Siberian republic there are, according to the MChS, more than 300 active fires, of which only 18 have been extinguished in the last hours thanks to the mobilization of almost 3,000 workers and more than 300 units of equipment. The Army has sent planes and helicopters. Several towns are threatened by fire, including Eldikán, Balagannaj, Udárnik and Svietli. An Antonov-26 “Cyclone” plane is operating in the area, capable of artificially causing precipitation.
The head of the Greenpeace-Russia fire department, Grigori Kuksin, who has just taken part in the extinction in Lena Pillars National Park, told Russian media that there are not enough people to fight the fire, as firefighters and rescue teams are concentrated in places where populated areas are threatened. Furthermore, in his words, tanker trucks do not reach areas with difficult access and the flames have to be put out practically by hand.
During the 2019 fires, Kuksin said that the soot and ash released by the fires “accelerate the melting of the Arctic and the permanent ice sheet (permafrost), releasing gases that reinforce global warming.” He stated then that “the effect of fires on the climate is very high (…) it is comparable to the emissions of large cities. The more fires affect the climate, the more favorable the conditions for new fires to break out. ‘
Several districts in the Siberian regions of Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Magadan and Chukotka are also on fire. Iliushin-76 tankers, thousands of firefighters, rescue teams and units of the Russian Armed Forces have been sent to all of them.
In Chelyabinsk (Urals), where fires have destroyed houses causing about twenty injured and one dead, the situation seemed under control, but the winds have caused the fire to spread again. There are 14,000 hectares in flames and many people are having to be evacuated.