In recent years, Russia has burned 3-4 million hectares of forest per season, but last year that number reached a record 10 million hectares: this is 1% of the country’s forest land. Therefore, the regions are preparing for the new fire season with special care.
Where it burns the most
According to Greenpeace, up to 4 million hectares of Russian forests are affected by fires each year. That number more than doubled last year. “The fires covered almost 10 million hectares, this is a maximum percentage, 1% of the total area [лесов]”Most of the fires took place in Yakutia, Irkutsk, Tyumen, Omsk, Kurgan, Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk and Krasnoyarsk Territories,” said Rosleskhoz leader Ivan Sovetnikov.
The “season of fires” in Russia lasts from March to October. As a rule, the number of areas in which fires occur begins to increase with the advent of spring. Rosgidromet is forecasting fires for the coming months, where it said the fires could start as early as April. Judging by the mentioned areas, the fire is expected in almost all of Russia – from the Pskov region to Primorye.
Usually in the spring fires occur due to burning dry grass or fires that have not been extinguished. “In the summer, natural factors are added to these factors – storms. “The forests of Yakutia, Krasnoyarsk Territory and Irkutsk Oblast were burned last year by lightning that fell on dead wood,” Vedomosti said. Ecology “representative of Rosleskhoz.
According to the forecast made by the Federal Forest Service based on the data of the hydrometeorological situation, now Crimea, the western part of the Krasnodar Territory, the western and northern parts of the Rostov region, the southern parts of the Belgorod and Voronezh regions the eastern part of the Republic of Tyva, the southwestern and southern part of the Trans-Baikal Territory and the southern part of the Primorsky Territory.
The regions claim to be prepared for floods. “We are ready for fires of any complexity, this year we will act according to the situation, we hope that everything will go according to plan,” Vedomosti said. Ecology »Minister of Ecology of the Kemerovo Region Sergey Vysotsky.
In the Nizhny Novgorod region, where 98 fires were recorded last year, they also said they were ready for fires. Many new forest fire centers have opened there, one of which is located on the border with Mordovia. “Last year, this reserve was a ‘hot spot’: a fire started there, it was barely extinguished. This year we will open a center there with firefighting equipment. “There are 43 such fire stations, 1,500 pieces of equipment, 3,000 firefighters in the area,” said Olga Ovsova, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife Protection.
In the Novgorod region, a consolidated plan for extinguishing forest fires was approved during the 2022 fire season. 494 firefighting units and 364 personnel are expected to participate, of which 64 units and 81 personnel. The formations of the Novgorod forest fire stations are equipped by 87.2%. The region’s Ministry of Natural Resources has increased federal funding for air patrols in the forests this year. In 2022, the purchase of 22 units is planned, including heavy equipment – tankers, all-terrain vehicles, tractors. For these purposes, they plan to allocate 87.6 million rubles. from the federal budget.
How aviation works
Forests are being eradicated either by soil groups or by dropping water from planes and helicopters. As a rule, all special purpose aircraft are domestically produced. Most often, these are An-2 aircraft and Mi-8AMT and Mi-8MTV helicopters. Last year, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Emergency Situations provided the largest Il-76P and Be-200 amphibious firefighting aircraft in the world to fight forest fires in Yakutia and Transbaikalia. A total of 350 aircraft were deployed for firefighting.
In order to develop firefighting aviation, an interregional forest fire center “Sever” of FBU “Avialesookhrana” was created in Russia, from 220 employees, of which 16 are aviation personnel, 150 are firefighters. The main functions of this structure are air patrol and deforestation, including those located in specially protected natural areas of Transbaikalia, Buryatia, Irkutsk and Tuva. This year, Rosleskhoz plans to expand the area of air patrols and more than double the number of flight hours: the special aviation will spend 50,000 hours in the air, which is 20,700 hours more than the same period last year.
Firefighting with the help of aviation is expensive and not always effective. It is necessary to extinguish not the fire itself, but its edge, so that the line of fire does not go deep into the untouched forest. Planes often miss their target. “The advantages of aviation are that the equipment arrives on time, but that’s where the advantages end. Coordinated work by operational headquarters, ground forces and the air force is essential. Such interaction most of the time either does not exist or is not enough. Water carried by aircraft to the edge of the fire is often scattered in the air due to the wind. “Pilots often receive incorrect coordinates,” Vedomosti.ru reported. Ecology, Head of the Department of Forest Pyroology and Fire Protection of the Pan-Russian Research Institute of Forestry and Forest Mechanization Nikolai Korsunov.
Lack of ground crews
More than 70 forest fires broke out in Yakutia last year. 6,000 people from 13 areas were killed. “The stakes were in the air force and the fires were mainly popular, that is, not tall trees were burned, but the undergrowth under them. There was thick smoke, planes often lost their edge.
The fires from below had to be extinguished. This was not always the case “, said an official of the Ministry of Ecology, Nature Management and Forests of Yakutia, on condition of anonymity.
An alternative to firefighting aviation is ground protection teams. “In 2010, when I was the head of the forest department of the Nizhny Novgorod region, our region, as well as the regions of Moscow and Ryazan, were also suffocated by fires. We were given 6 billion rubles to fight the fire, almost two-thirds of which went to pay for the work of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the army. Next, we figured out that a great alternative to these would be ground forest teams, whose fighters are typically armed with backpack fire extinguishers, motorized pumps. “Three such brigades are replacing a Be-200 amphibious aircraft,” said Yury Gagarin, a lead researcher at the Center for Forest Ecology and Productivity at the Russian Academy of Sciences and director of the International Forest Institute.
Ground fire teams still exist, but there are only a few hundred of them throughout Russia. The area of Russian forests, according to Rosstat, is 1188 million hectares, much more people are needed to protect them. By 2004, such teams consisted of up to 180,000 people, were equipped with the necessary equipment, and conducted regular exercises. But then their number began to decline. “This institution has been lost due to the popularization of the domestic aviation industry, it can be revived, it can help put out fires, but here we need a government decision at the highest level,” Korshunov said.