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Wildfires rage in Siberia and Russian Far East

By 0 and 0 and 0
11 May 2016


'Forests are burning! Nothing to breath in Bagdarin village!' Picture: Vkontakte

Warming weather has unleashed a wave of forest fires, with the Republic of Buryatia, and regions TransBaikal and Amur badly hit. In one day alone 10,000 hectares of forest in the Russian Far East was burned down, with dozens of homes lost. 

The scale was less than in Canada's dramatic fires, but is a reminder of the grave threat annually facing many Russian regions. Head of the Federal Forestry Agency Ivan Valentik blames people for much of the carnage. 

'99% of all fires in the Amur region, the Trans-Baikal region and Buryatia are caused by people who set fire to grass,' he said. He warned that the tradition of burning dried grass ahead of the sowing season - popular since Soviet times - is now against the law. 

Wildfires map

Zarechnaya Sloboda in Amur region

Zarechnaya Sloboda in Amur region

Zarechnaya Sloboda in Amur region

Zarechnaya Sloboda in Amur region

In Amur region 11 houses were destroyed by fire and 50 people evacuated in Zarechnaya Sloboda village. Pictures: Amurskaya Pravda, Port Amur

'It is now necessary to take all measures to tighten control over compliance with the ban on the burning of dry grass,' he said. 'People need to know that by burning grass they violate the law.'

Criminal cases will be brought against those who burn grass, he said.

In Amur region 11 houses were destroyed by fire and 50 people evacuated in Zarechnaya Sloboda village. Some 200 homes were saved by emergency teams. Other houses were lost near Progress and Malinovka villages. 

On May 10 the situation worsened because of strong winds - up to 20 metres per second, igniting homes in a matter of minutes, with 27 people left homeless.

Svobodny settlement in Amur region

Svobodny settlement in Amur region

Zarechnaya Sloboda in Amur region

On May 10 the situation worsened because of strong winds - up to 20 metres per second, igniting homes in a matter of minutes, with 27 people left homeless. Pictures: Port Amur

In Buryatia the area of wildfires increased in 1.5 times to 11 May with some 18,800 hectares  burning. At one point, fires threatened the republic's capital Ulan-Ude. In TransBaikal region some 11,000 hectares were aflame. 

During the long May holidays holidays, fire came close to Buryatia settlements 14 times, and the area of wildfires increased 10 times. Local residents posted pictures in social media with comments such as:

'Forests are burning! Nothing to breath in Bagdarin village!', 'Turk village is on fire!', 'In Ilyinka village forest is burning. In just 3-4 hours the entire village was in smoke!'

Elan village in Buryatia

Turka village in Buryatia

Turka village in Buryatia

Wildfires in Buryatia

Wildfires in Buryatia

Ust-Barguzin in Buryatia

In Buryatia the area of wildfires increased in 1.5 times to 11 May with some 18,800 hectares  burning. Pictures: Vkontakte

The federal highway Baikal in some places is covered in smoke because of burning peat bogs. 

Nearly 1,200 people are involved in firefighting in Buryatia, including paratroopers of the Federal Reserve and aviation forest protection teams. 250 pieces of heavy and firefighting equipment are involved, including aircraft An-2, Mi-2 and Mi-8.

In TransBaikal region 951 firefighters are deployed, including 202 paratroopers  from Chita air base and 73 paratroopers from Avia Forest Security. In Amur region 732 people are involved in firefighting.

Comments (10)

People are not to blame...even if they rashly start a fire to burn weeds etc. For they have been doing that for eternity & the result was minimal. But the world today is suffering from Government, big industrial businesses & the most of us in our own way who are not caring about our environment, not caring about where the next plastic bag we throw away ends up, not caring to in a drought to preserve water, not caring to split our rubbish bins into separate piles one as real disposable waste & recycling waste. The earth is getting warmer by the year, governments are getting stupider by the year & a good many of us worldwide are not heeding the warning signs to how we're belittling nature & our little patch of earth. It's the only world there is, for humans to inhibit, (forget about Mars, Moon & rest) and look after our most precious piece of real estate ever handed down to us, our home "Earth". Keep ignoring the signs & we'll soon be burnt or flooded out of it. Now is the time to "Act".
Jaker, Dundalk
10/05/2017 02:46
Where is the world heading? In Tasmania we have had the coldest winter, the driest spring, the hottest summer and we finished the year with the biggest floods ever. And people still deny Climate Change!!
Phil Dolan, Kimberley Australia
19/07/2016 10:56
I would expect after a few of these awful fires the farmers would figure it out....but I remember about 3 years ago a US govt agency did a "controlled" burn and almost burned down New Mecico. It is almost July 4th and many idiots will start fires as well as amputating their hands.
Brenda Enck, San Jose CA
01/07/2016 06:48
Goats are a safer way to clear land, use digging pigs to get rid of the next layer of weeds & help heal the soil.
Amy pie, Boulder, CO usa
25/05/2016 11:03
Russia and Canada have seen nothing yet. The fire season is barely started and this year is likely to be catastrophic as a consequence of global warming. Over the last week areas of western Russia have averaged 16° C hotter than the 1981-2010 average for this time of year (see If we don't stop emitting greenhouse gases very quickly we are likely to suffer climate scale catastrophe, as explained in my presentation, Some Inconvenient Facts About Climate Change and the Likelihood of Near-Term Climatic Disasters -
William Hall, Australia
24/05/2016 13:33
Rick Phllips is right, it's climate change that is driving these terrible fires. In normal times, traditional grass burning practices are likely functional, and good for the long term health of the region. But, these are not normal times. We are in the hottest few months on record.

If people are going to do controlled burning, they are going to have to change the season they do it in to winter, not spring, and pick fire conditions such that they will not set off firestorms.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa, California, U.S.A.
17/05/2016 09:34
Poor cats and dogs too :(
Jan Lo, CA/USA
14/05/2016 18:53
Big carbon monoxide plume on the map of Earth. This is in an area hidden beneath cloud cover from the NASA fires and thermal anomalies scans, but these must be huge fires today to generate plumes like this:,55.43,3000/loc=121.124,65.309

Best wishes from California, USA, in your terrible time of troubles.
Leland Palmer, United States
13/05/2016 23:17
My thoughts are with the people of these regions. Also their livestock and the wildlife affected. I realise the people have to change their grass-burning practices, but they cannot be blamed for the climate which is causing the conditions of forest dryness and weather which promulgates these fires. I am so sorry for the people who have lost their way of life. Here in Australia we have wildfires but to an extent we are used to them, although they do appear to be getting worse. Cold areas which rarely burnt are burning more regularly. obviously my thoughts are with the firefighters of the regions and the troops of the Russian Federation fighting the fires.
All the best.
Rick Phillips, Australia
13/05/2016 08:48
crazy people, they start the fire which then burns down their own property.
dd ff, world citizen
11/05/2016 23:30

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