Wildfires raging across Russia since the start of the year have destroyed almost triple the amount of forests and crops as attributed to last year’s deadly wildfires during the same time period, and conditions show the situation is likely to get worse.
“We’re burning, burning badly, said Alexey Yaroshenko, a forestry expert with Greenpeace, the AP reports. “This year’s situation is already much worse than last year’s.”
Almost 1.57 million acres (635,568 hectares) of land has been ravaged since January 1, up from around 216,374 hectares during the same period a year ago. In May, a large forest fire began in Chelyabinsk Region, in an area of “serious nuclear pollution” from the Mayak nuclear disaster of 1957, Greenpeace reported.
The latest wildfires are likely to ignite peat bogs near Moscow, creating a repeat performance of last summer when the city was in the throes of a record heat wave and blanketed in thick smoke. Peat bogs located around the city are still smoldering from last year’s fires and smoke in the city from this year’s fires will be unavoidable.
“A large amount of fires last year and this year do not show up in official statistics, but we've counted 64 peat fires around Moscow right now,” Yaroshenko told Reuters, according to the Economic Times.
Russia’s Emergency Ministry (EM) notes there are 5,526 personnel currently involved in fighting the fires. At least 908 pieces of equipment, including 72 aircraft are also participating in the wildfires.
The most troublesome fires, due to extremely warm weather and difficult terrain, are located in Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk and Zabalkalsky Territories of the Irkutsk region and in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District. The ministry also notes the weather forecast is not favorable, with difficulties likely to develop in the Far Eastern, Siberian, Volga, Southern and Central Federal Districts.