September 01, 2019

Fire in the Forest

Fire in the Forest
An Mi-26 heavylift helicopter scoops up water for use in aerial firefighting in the Vladivostok region. Yuri Smityuk

In the public mind, Russian forests have always been an unlimited resource, as vast as many of the world’s countries combined, with as many trees as there are grains of sand in the desert.

Perhaps it was this sort of thinking that pushed the government in 2015 to declare most of the forests in Siberia, the ones in the North that are far from human settlements, as areas where wildfires don’t need to be extinguished. These “zones of control” were simply too expensive to cover for the cash-strapped fire prevention services, the Environment Ministry decreed.

This summer, however, the decision seems to have backfired (literally), as out-of-control fires inundate large cities like Krasnoyarsk with smoke. Some plumes are even visible from North America.

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