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2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’

By The Siberian Times reporter
14 August 2019

Military fully engaged in minimising carnage, but water sprayed by planes to extinguish infernos is ‘as expensive as Champagne’.

The total land destroyed by flames will soon exceed 2018 with weeks of the burning season still to go

Territory covered with wildfires across Russia has reached its peak for the year so far, with some 5.4 million hectares ablaze mostly in Siberia and the country’s far east. 

The total land destroyed by flames will soon exceed 2018 with weeks of the burning season still to go. 

Greenpeace Russia has predicted the damage can overtake the worst year on record, 2012.

Only some 9% of these fires are actively being fought, since resources are concentrated by the authorities on flames threatening settlements or industrial or other crucial facilities. 

The immense scale of the fires is highlighted by the fact that so far this year some 14.9 million hectares has been destroyed by burning: this is an area larger than Bangladesh or Greece. 

Smoke from wildfires has covered an area larger than the European Union. 

2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’

Pictures show smoke and flames from fires currently raging in Irkutsk region


In 2018 wildfires hit 15.4 million hectares, and in 2012, the destruction ranged over 18.1 million hectares. 

It is ‘not only forest that degrades and dies, but also millions of people suffer from smoke and wild animals lose their habitat’, said Konstantin Fomin, press secretary of Greenpeace Russia.

The organisation estimates that the wildfires will have  produced over 225 million tonnes of carbon dioxide which is compatible to annual exhaust of 49 million cars.  

US president Donald Trump famously offered American help in coping with the wildfires, the some from which has already  crossed the Pacific.

But Grigory Kuksin, head of the counter-fire department of Greenpeace Russia told Moscow journalist Irina Shikhman: 'All this can be extinguished only by the rains. 

‘Almost four million hectares that are burning now are impossible to extinguish with any group of forces, even if we will gather all the firefighters of Russia, call the Americans and add the Europeans. Throwing the water from the air is a show off, catchy picture for the TV. 

‘These airplanes - the Il-76s can make only a few flights per day - from their base to the burning area. They throw 40 tons of water and doing this they can temporarily extinguish only 750 metres of the fire edge if they hit the right spot. 750 metres is not that much given the scale of the fires, while the cost of the water thrown, given all the transport expenses, all the salaries to the staff, is close to the cost of Champagne. 

‘So 40 tons of Champagne... and with similar efficiency.’

2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’
Military fully engaged in minimising carnage, but water sprayed by planes to extinguish infernos is ‘as expensive as Champagne’


Fire expert Alexander Bryukhanov said that this year’s fires are ‘very strong’.

‘There are a lot of high-intensity ground fires or even high fires that destroy almost all the vegetation in their path,’ he said.

‘One month has been lost. 

‘They have not been extinguishing for a month, but now it is impossible. 

‘It also happens that the forests that were extinguished catch fire again.’

Bryukhanov is senior researcher at the Laboratory of Forest Pyrology, Sukachev Institute of Forest, Krasnoyarsk. 

2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’


2019 to be ‘worst-ever year’ for wildfires in Siberia and ‘only rain can now extinguish flames’

Comments (7)

It's global warming that is fueling this, of course.

We need to convert to renewable energy sources, and should be starting to go to BECCS (Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) to generate our electricity, as soon as possible. BECCS is carbon negative - it actually takes carbon out of the atmosphere and puts it back underground, ideally converting the CO2 to carbonate rock. Look up BECCS on Wikipedia for more information.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio-energy_with_carbon_capture_and_storage


Controlled burning in the winter, creating firebreaks in the forest with the wood from that being used for BECCS are some of the strategies that might start to work. The Australian fire prevention measures mentioned in the comments above might help. But in the short term, nothing can be done but try to minimize the loss of life, I think.

Global warming is like a slow motion train wreck, and it's just starting. Right now, 90% of the excess solar heating is going into the oceans.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa,CA / U.S.A.
31/08/2019 00:07
0
1
We pray that God sends rain to extinguish the fires, and we pray for protection for the people who are breathing the smoke. We cry out for mercy. Love and prayers.
Mr. and Mrs. Downing, United States of America
30/08/2019 11:21
1
0
Sad... big catastrophe, not just for Sibir, for all world, same as Amazona fire. Sadly in Croatia (especially) in region Dalmatia in summer there are many fires... different reasons but sadly the same result. Better preparedness and conscientiousness. Good Luck
Karlo, Split
28/08/2019 05:24
5
0
The problem will probably increase with the increase in temperature in the higher latitudes. How can Russia plan for this? Here in Australia there is back-burning in the winter, volunteer fire brigade fire fighters and constant monitoring for fires. But the ecosystem in Siberia is totally different. And changing all the time. All expertise available needs to be applied. Good luck.
Rashid Mostafa, Katoomba, Australia
21/08/2019 12:15
5
0
There are actually fires on Greenland more than ever right by the ice sheet. Many other places catching on fire around the world. The Amazon is totally ablaze now. The horrific images from Greece or USA where entire families were found holding each other and burned to a crisp spring to mind. This extreme weather is going to get worse and i can hardly imagine a worse way to die except torture. Imagine for a second you are surrounded by fire...your skin is melting off as you watch your children suffer the same...it's terrifying.
Forest Dweller, Amersfoort
16/08/2019 15:54
4
4
Setting backfires is probably the only proactive thing fire crews can do at this point. Wearing particle masks helps filter the largest smoke particles and ash fallout, but it's very hard to try to sleep when wearing them. Last year I was downwind of two very large forest wildfires and after breathing the smoke for three weeks I lost my voice - whatever was in the smoke caused my vocal cords to simply stop functioning. I feel sorry for Siberians who are downwind of those massive fires. Good luck to you!
Higain, Northern California
15/08/2019 07:39
8
0
Forests in Poland covering 9,2 mln hectares of land..its horrible natural disaster.. poor people, poor taiga.. I wish succeed in eforts to extinguish fire for Russians!
Forester, Poland
14/08/2019 22:05
13
1
1

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