Russian language English   15 May 2012, 18:08
19.09.2011, 10:07

Fire brigade

Fire brigade

The Russian annual share of the world’s forests exterminated by fire is 2 percent

One of the tragedies of this week is large fires in the State of Texas (USA). As of September 7, about 1000 houses were burned down and minimum 2 persons perished due to the forest fire. Over 12 thousand hectares were burnt to cinder in Bestrop district, and 1,5 million hectares were burnt in Texas only since the beginning of the year. For comparison: about 2 million hectares of forests are on fire in Russia in average for the whole year! And this is given the fact that Russia holds approximately a quarter of world’s forest stock.

Forests of America and Canada always have vast fires. But the fires of this year, and in particular in Texas, Americans explain by drought. Heavy rains were bypassing the state for almost a year, and strong winds spurred the spread of the fire. Blows of the tropical storm Li brisked up the fire spots ruining all the efforts of the firefighters in some areas. The Governor of the state and candidate for presidency from the Republican party Rick Perry had to interrupt his election trips around the country and return to the state ablaze in fires. “No time for politics now. People’s lives and homes are in danger, and this is much more important”, he admitted. Some experts believe that the USA do not pay due attention to fire prevention; moreover, Americans are not duly prepared for putting out large forest fires. The States consider fires to be a regular natural phenomenon, and now they blame the weather for the catastrophe.

In the meantime, Russia also got a rather dry summer. But having learnt the lesson of the previous year, the country succeeded in preventing fires despite of the forecasts from the skeptics. For instance, with the average July temperature of +30 C degrees in Moscow region, as last year, peat bogs could have been burning around the capital. However, thanks to well-organized work by Rosleskhoz, Emercom of Russia and the government of Moscow region, no tragedy took place. Compared to the last year, the area of natural fires shrank by 25 times. There were just two peat bog fires during the whole summer, in Orekhovo-Zuevo and Pavlo-Posadsk districts. In the latter case smoke jumpers were called for immediately, and they stopped the fire right on the spot. As a result, the fire was localized and extinguished in a record-breaking time.

By the way, smoke jumpers were effective not only in Moscow region. They were quickly deployed in burning forests of Komi Republic, Volgograd and Ivanovo regions, in Siberia and the Far East. Alexander Arsenov, the head of parachute fire service under FSE Central Aviation Forest Protection “Avialesoohrana” told about the work of those unique specialists and about the future improvements of the service. For instance, in Moscow region only the number of smoke jumpers will grow fourfold next year, and they will be 260 persons. It has been planned to establish a federal reserve of such specialists, which will be 2,5 thousand people.

Space monitoring will provide information about the fire spots. Besides, 200 planes and helicopters patrol Russian forests every day. A group of paratroopers of 6 persons is capable of coping with fire on the forest area of about 10 hectares. All depends on the complexity of the fire and the density of the trees around. Backpack extinguishers and portable motor pumps are used to combat the disaster. Paratroopers land the equipment on cargo parachutes and then carry it along the edge of fire.
In parallel to the establishment of probably the biggest service of smoke jumpers, Russian regions are getting new firefighting machinery at the expense of the federal budget. Just one Department of forestry for the Central federal district supplied 20 units of special equipment during the previous week.  Ten more “machines” are coming. The following regions have already got machinery: Bryansk, Ivanovo, Kaluga, Kostroma, Ryazan, Smolensk, Tver and Yaroslavl. The machines are of Russian brands. In total 165 units of new forest fire machines have been supplied to the regions of the Central federal district.

Yegor Sviridov

In the meantime
As early as in the spring, replying the comment of journalists from “Rossiiskaya Gazeta” on the fact that Russian forests don’t burn as much as in America and Canada, the Director of Rosleskhoz Victor Maslyakov noted that, for instance, in Finland they have about 5 forest fires a month. Whereas in some Russian regions up to 5 fire outbreaks occur a day. Victor Maslyakov highlighted that “it is necessary to build up a system of personal responsibility of local authorities for forest fires”. They must not only extinguish fires in the first hours, but prevent them as well and work with local people who are mainly to blame for forest fires.

(translated by Vladimir Mineev)

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