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Disturbing new pictures show the raging Siberian wildfires that (officially) do not exist 

By The Siberian Times reporter
27 September 2016

Pro-Kremlin eco-groups echo Greenpeace concerns by highlighting burning of forests which do not appear in government reports.

'I would like to see those estimates, which would have shown that the costs of firefighting are actually higher than the damage from the fires.' Picture: Nikita Pyatkov/IRK.ru

For weeks there have been reports of major fires burning in remote districts but unregistered by the authorities. Hard evidence was lacking but now it has been produced by two pro-Kremlin groups which made a joint mission to check out the claims. 

These pictures show the fires in Irkutsk region, with one claim that locals have been subjected to smoke fumes for as long as six months from blazes that officially were not burning.

Latest satellite images confirm the fires, as the image here shows.  

Wildfires in Irkutsk region


Wildfires in Irkutsk region

'From the air we see that the taiga is burning over an area that is measured in hundreds, thousands of hectares.' Pictures: Nikita Pyatkov/IRK.ru

Alexander Yakubovsky, head of the local All-Russian People's Front, set up by President Vladimir Putin, said: 'We are now in Ust-Kut. Smoke is very strong, visibility is no more than 300 metres.

'From the air we see that the taiga is burning over an area that is measured in hundreds, thousands of hectares. And in official reports the picture is quite different. The data is clearly underestimated. We are trying to film everything we see on camera.' 

In a evocative despatch on 22 September, he wrote: 'This is called the edge of the fire ... no end of it in sight ... we have examined Kirensky, Katangsky and Ust-Kutsky districts, forests are burning, and we have not seen any piece of equipment, not a single person who would put out the fire.'

Wildfires in Irkutsk region


Wildfires in Irkutsk region

Latest satellite images confirm the fires. Pictures: fires.ru, Greenpeace

His group 'recorded more than two dozens foci' of the wildfires. 'Air traffic and navigation on the Lena Rover is intermittent, sometimes visibility is very low, the last flights were banned today.'

The head of Living Forest group, Nikolai Nikolaev, claimed the Irkutsk authorities have incorrectly interpreted the order of the Ministry of Natural Resources, which allows the regional commission for emergency situations and fire safety to make decisions about not extinguishing fires.

Living Forest is a group organised by United Russia, which comfortably won this month's parliamentary elections in Russia. 

Wildfires in Irkutsk region


Wildfires in Irkutsk region


Wildfires in Irkutsk region

These pictures show the fires in Irkutsk region, with one claim that locals have been subjected to smoke fumes for as long as six months from blazes that officially were not burning. Picture: Nikita Pyatkov/IRK.ru

'There are no words in the order that the authorities are allowed not to take into account the more difficult fires,' he said. Nor should this be used as a reason 'not to inform the public' about large-scale fires. 

'The document states that decisions on not extinguishing the fires can be taken if there are no threats to settlements or economic facilities, and in the case when the costs of putting out the fires are higher than the possible harm from them,' he said.

'I would like to see those estimates, which would have shown that the costs of firefighting are actually higher than the damage from the fires. It is very difficult to explain to residents of Ust-Kut, who have filled their lungs with carbon dioxide for almost six months, that the authorities failed to extinguish the fires because they do not see any threat to the town.'

Wildfires in Irkutsk region


Wildfires in Irkutsk region

After the claims of pro-Putin activists, the head of the Emergency Ministry Vladimir Puchkov ordered the reinforcement of firefighters in Eastern Siberia. Pictures: Nikita Pyatkov/IRK.ru

Additionally, Yakubobsky reported the annual 'northern delivery' of vital supplies to remote communities usually by river - notably on the Lena and Angara - has been disrupted by thick smoke from the fires.

Three days ago, officials reported that rains had extinguished many wildfires in the vicinity of Bratsk and Ust-Kut - reported on by The Siberian Times last week - but after the claims of pro-Putin activists, the head of the Emergency Ministry Vladimir Puchkov ordered the reinforcement of firefighters in Eastern Siberia. 

He ordered: 'Make them work. It is necessary to take additional measures to protect settlements, social facilities, infrastructure, (and) power lines. Some heads of districts have relaxed, as they have a good record, but nature does not like such attitude. You need to calculate the risks.'

Comments (5)

The problem is that these fire are caused by the temperature increase and the drought.
Look at this map: http://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/smcd/emb/vci/VH/vh_browse.php
It shows the thermal stress the vegetation experience.

The long term problem is this one: all major extinction events started by the death of forests, with fire and cryptogamic diseases. Then the climate change even more and the top soil is lost. We should be looking at these giant forest fires as start events of the extinction.

From the pictures, I cannot see any overgrown underbush and I can see signs of drought.
Monster fires burned this summer in Russia, Africa, Amazonia and Oceania. Fires in Malesia (not sure I remembrer the country's name right) alone are similar to USA CO2 emissions.

Maybe if we stop the extinction chain of events at the first stages, we got a chance to survive. That means firefighting and planting adapted trees, resilient to fires, such as redwoods, oaks, etc. See what can grow where...
Marina, Western Europe
07/10/2016 00:51
2
0
Hi Alex Stupin. As you can see, that Soviet knowledge needs to get passed on. Don't tell me you how to extinguish fires, better tell the guy spraying water to the wood.
Andres Suarez, Cancun, Mexico
29/09/2016 05:26
0
1
Andres Suarez, firebreaks in the forest - a Soviet know-how by 1939, if I am not mistaken. Mexico is still learning how to extinguish forest fires.
Alex Stupin, Russia, Irkutsk region
28/09/2016 23:25
4
0
Water is useless with forests' fires!! Come on. It just evaporates. Even if you put out the visible fire, the vegetal soil may just keep burning slowly for days and re-ignite when everybody is gone.

You have to make strips free of trees and soil all across the forest in order to stop those fires. Ask for help to Mexico, don't be shy, it's not rocket science.
Andres Suarez, Cancun, Mexico
28/09/2016 06:40
1
2
The only thing unusual is that the location and size of some of the fires is not reported to the public. Alaska tracks all forest fires and like Russia unless the fire is threatening structures or people it lets them burn. The cost of fighting every fire is prohibitive and not a ecologically sound action. Lightening caused forest fires clear areas for new plant life that is important for animals and birds. No fires allows the underbrush to build up to the point that when a fire does start the effects are even more destructive as the lower United States has found out. Yes people in Alaska also complain about having to breath the fire smoke in summer. Especially Fairbanks Alaska.
Douglas Smith, Anchorage Alaska
28/09/2016 01:18
6
0
1

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