August 9, 2022


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Tired Russian firefighters face a particularly severe fire season

Igor Zakharov and his team are fighting relentlessly in the face of a fire that is spreading in the wilds of the Siberian Republic of Yakutia, but there are no people to face one of the worst seasons known in the region.

As head of the regiment of the Forest Defense Air Force, Igor Zakharov and his men spent the evening patrolling the five-kilometer-long moat dug near the village of Bios-Kyuzol. .

A month against fire

The men, fitted with masks against heavy smoke, loaded the rubber tires they had hung on the sticks and then repaired the dry forest floor on the other side of the ditch and started a controlled fire.

The group did not calculate how many fires had to be fought since the end of May – sometimes successfully and sometimes not – in the less populated region of Yakudia, in northern northern Siberia. Facing a very intense fire season.

We kept a section for eight days, but it eventually burned down because tractors could not come to us.“, In a situation like this, they have to dig trenches with shovels,” explains Igor Zakharov.

More than equipment, “We need peopleHowever he said.

Wildfires aggravated by the heat wave have so far destroyed 1.5 million hectares of Yakut Taika. The fire season in Siberia has not lasted more than a month.

In recent years, many temperature records have been broken in Moscow and elsewhere, with large parts of Russia experiencing heat waves and drought caused by climate change.

►►► Also read: A historically annoying June in Moscow: almost 35 degrees, a record since 1901

In Yakutia, Russia’s coldest region on the border of the Arctic Ocean, wildfires have reached such levels that they have almost diverted security air service.

With 250 full-time and 150 seasonal staff watching the fire from the air or landing on site by parachute or truck, he is responsible for almost five times the area of ​​France.

Lead pilot Svyatoslav Kolesov agreed that the fire should be extinguished completely. But with limited staff facing budget cuts after the end of the Soviet Union, when the service numbered nearly 1,600, the work often proved unattainable.

Often, due to a shortage of these men, firefighters only intervene when they reach a level that is considered adequate, resulting in a small fire burning.

If the fire spreads quickly and reaches a large area, we will try to save the areas where we live and the strategic infrastructure“Kolesov told the AFP.

Continuous budget cuts

Environmental activists are questioning Russia’s forest fire policy, which would allow local authorities to ignore it if the cost of extinguishing the fire exceeds the estimated damage, including a 2015 government order.

We have been saying for years that Russia should triple its budget to fight wildfires“, Greenpeace’s AFP Gregory Coxin explains.

In early July, Moscow helped its rescuers and its army to tackle Yakutia Island, while dozens of volunteers joined the struggle.

Our men have been working in the forest non-stop for a month. Someone will be tired

The lack of funding for the Forest Service, the only organization fully responsible for combating such fires, is evident on the ground.

I lent most of my gear to a group on a nearby fire“Igor Zakharov says he can only get a patrol quad after many requests and criticisms from the authorities about the slowdown in his team.

Our men have been working in the forest non-stop for a month. Someone will be tired. By what right do they criticize us?“She is OK.

After Beas-Cusol, his men will fight the next fire without any rest. “If we don’t, everything will burn“, He begins.

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