The sky over the Kiev and Zhytomyr regions is so congested now that “there isn’t room for a cat”. Several Ukrainian military transport multi-purpose aircraft AN-32P, as well as the “turntables” of the State Emergency Service, which still managed to serve in Afghanistan under the USSR, have been flying endlessly over the Chernobyl forests for the past 14 days. The Chernobyl zone is burning, it`s burning terribly! More than 280 sorties were carried out, about 1,500 tons of water were discharged, 100 pieces of equipment and 1,000 personnel were involved in the first week of the disaster. Rescue operations are extremely complicated due to the increased radiation environment.
Perhaps such a large-scale fire as this spring has not been in the Chernobyl zone since the accident in 1986. And again, April brought fear and anxiety, the planet was gripped by the coronovirus pandemic, and here we have Chernobyl fires. How you cannot believe that “misfortunes never come singly”. In this connection, the assurances of the State Emergency Service don`t comfort, they say that there is no cause for concern, as the radiation background in Kiev and the Kiev region within the limits of the norm, do not exceed natural background values.
Starting from April 3, 2020, scaring the long-suffering Ukrainian Polesie, not only individual foci of the Chernobyl forest or peat bogs began to burn, this time the flame swept the protected territories, and what is most terrible – it came as close to Pripyat itself. The fire destroyed huge forests, incinerated villages and cemeteries for 14 days. The settlements left during the evacuation of 1986 — Lelev, Kopachi, Polesskoye, Grezlya, Rudnya-Grezlyanskaya, Kovshilovka, Varovichi, Buda-Varovichi, Martynovichi, Emerald, Volkhov, Chistogalovka — were burned.
Flames covered the most dangerous areas – the territory of the Red Forest, the closed military town of Chernobyl-2, and Chernobyl itself was partially damaged by the fire, the fire burned literally a few kilometers from the Vektor special enterprise and the Podlesny radioactive waste storage facility. As you know, the most dangerous burials of highly radioactive waste are located on its territory, including the aforementioned “Red Forest”, which in fact has long been gone, because it was demolished by bulldozers and buried during the decontamination of the territory in 1986. But over time, nature found the strength to build a new life, and the forest began to be actively restored in a natural way.
Helicopters in the sky: extinguishing fires or driving out the coronovirus COVID-19
Some grinned sarcastically in the early days of the fire – they say that the Ministry of Emergency Situations launched chopper into the sky to sprinkle the population with a certain reagent in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduces the effect of coronovirus on people. Well, one can really envy such a receptive imagination, but “… all this would be funny, if it were not so sad,” as M. Lermontov once said.
The reasons for the “water procedures” carried out by Ukrainian rescuers in the sky over the northern part of Ukraine are not a panacea that can accelerate the lifting of quarantine, but terrible fires that have been burning for two weeks in a row in the Exclusion Zone, as a result of which unique “Chernobyl forests” are burning.
As we can see, firefighters extinguish more and more fires in very difficult conditions, but a strong wind plays on the side of the wrath of nature. According to the preliminary version of the investigation, the current 4-5 level of fires is the result of the activities of groups of “arsonists”. Some were caught, but new “thrill-seekers” were immediately put in their place, and maybe they weren’t just lovers – the version of a clearly planned sabotage was gaining more and more supporters. The only wish is to scream: “Yes, so that their hands are dried up, inhumans! Nature, unique Red Book animals and rare plants restored so hard after a terrible tragedy are dying! Polessky lands, like 34 years ago, were again on the edge between life and death!”
When information is not enough, they come up with it
This is quite obvious that emotions overwhelm any sane person today, but, nevertheless, you need to be objective. There have already been a large number of fantasies, conjectures, hypotheses and assumptions around the topic of fires in the Chernobyl zone, sometimes beyond common sense, and most importantly, distorting the actual state of things. There is an official information in this material, received from expert sources allows us to answer vital questions regarding recent events in the Chernobyl zone.
- What is the chronological sequence of fires?
The fire initially started in the afternoon, on April 3, in the western part of the exclusion zone, near the village of Narodichi, near the floodplain of the Uzh River, spreading over an area of about 20 hectares. Due to strong gusts of wind, the fire quickly spread to the territory of the Kotovsky Forestry, near the village of Vladimirovka.
On April 5, about 100 hectares of forest burned down.
On April 6, law enforcement agencies established the identity of the offender suspected of intentionally arson of 5 hectares of Kotovsky forestry.
On April 7-8, the fire spread to the territory between the villages of Polesskoye, Vladimirovka, Rudnya. Dry grass and forest coniferous litter burned.
On April 9, the ignition of certain sections of the Denisovetsky, Kotovsky and Korogodsky forestries began. The fires were extinguished by the Rivne garrison of the rescue service, as well as rescuers from Poltava and Lubny.
On April 10-11, fire covered 3.5 thousand hectares of land.
On April 13, a large-scale fire was recorded in locations near the Podlesny radioactive waste burial site. A flame swept the former railway station Yanov in the area of the village of Chistogalovka, due to a strong wind. Law enforcers managed to find a potential suspect in the arson who is a resident of the Ivankovo district.
On April 14, new fires were discovered in the areas of Parishevsky and Lubyansky forestry against the backdrop of ongoing fires in the Denisovets and Koragodst forestries. 110 units of equipment, 3 AN-32P aircraft and 3 MNF helicopters were involved in the extinguishing.
On April 15-16, the fire was localized, but the smoldering of hemp and wood continued.
According to tour operators, the fire destroyed more than 30% of tourist sites located in the Exclusion Zone.
- What has suffered the most – the conservation area or forestry areas?
Fires occurred in several places on the territory of the Chernobyl exclusion zone from April 3 to 16. The largest of them are in the southwestern part, near the villages of Tarasy, Vladimirovka, Varovichi, Novy Mir, Kliviny, where the fire passed from the territory of the Drevlyansky Nature Reserve.
Another source, formed as a result of burning dry vegetation outside the exclusion zone, was located in the southern part, near the village of Rassokha, from where the fire spread to the territory of the Chernobyl Radiation-Ecological Biosphere Reserve. As a result of fires, according to preliminary zoning of the territory, unique zones of anthropogenic landscapes and a buffer zone were affected.
As a result of the fact that a strong gusty wind contributes to new outbreaks of fire and residual smoldering of timber and dead wood, damage to territories with high levels of conservation is not ruled out.
Refence: Today, the work on the project of organizing the territory and land management of the Chernobyl Reserve hasn`t been completed, and the territory of the exclusion zone is not transferred to the balance of the Reserve. Therefore, the protection of forests from fires, and directly extinguishing itself, continues to be carried out by the Severnaya Pushcha GSP. The division of the territory into separate forestries is still preserved.
- Will burned forests be a subject to deforestation, or vice versa, will conflagration remain an experimental site for monitoring natural forest restoration?
Until the fire is finally eliminated, it is impossible to make an accurate assessment of forest loss. In addition, radioactive pollution of the territory plays an important role in solving this issue. The main function of the forests of the exclusion zone is the barrier, that is, the containment of radionuclides on the ground. Therefore, their recovery is an important factor in choosing ways to rehabilitate conflagrations. It should be noted that the success of natural restoration largely depends on soil conditions. In some areas, the forest itself will be able to recover quickly, in others – it will take more than 10 years. The Chernobyl Reserve focuses on the natural processes of ecosystem restoration, which are more resistant to climate change. Part of the territories scorched by fire will be used as scientific training grounds for studying the processes of ecosystem restoration, the characteristics of the distribution and deposition of radionuclides after fires.
- What is the total area of fires?
A preliminary assessment of the territory affected by the fire was carried out by the Regional East European Center for Fire Monitoring using data from remote sensing of the earth and so far is about 11500 ha.
- Why is there a mess in the forests: nobody follows and clears the tree lines?
The reserve was created only in 2016 and the process of its actual formation is underway now, in particular, the development of land management and organization of the territory. After their completion, the Reserve will be finally formed and will be able to receive adequate funding. It should be noted that according to the current legislation, forestry activities in the exclusion zone are limited. Therefore, conducting logging in forests, clearing roads, and quarter lanes often requires state funding, which, unfortunately, is insufficient. Sanitary felling is carried out on the territory of the Reserve, dead and fallen trees are removed, however, it is impossible to cover all the territories at the same time due to the large area of the Reserve.
- What about the fauna, in particular the Przewalski’s horses?
According to preliminary information, everything is fine so far. Emergency personnel and employees of the Reserve did not find injured or dead animals on the territory. The fire was mostly low. Large animals and birds tend to avoid fire due to movement. Animals of small and medium size – amphibians, reptiles, mouse rodents, and so on –are at risk. They cannot quickly escape from fire and smoke.
- Can such fires be provoked intentionally?
Unfortunately, there is a sad practice in Ukraine when illegal logging is “masked” by fires. But this time, experts are convinced that the current large-scale fire arose as a result of deliberate arson. They agree that this is a planned diversion. Perhaps there is a political background, but so far no one has commented on it. There is a fact – the Chernobyl zone caught fire almost simultaneously in different places. Not many believe in the realistic preliminary version of the investigation: “… One villager set fire to the trash, then collected it in a basket, took it out to the village and dumped it onto the dry grass, which eventually caught fire.”
There must be a mandatory debriefing and punishment of those responsible after each such emergency. It should be understood that the fact of suppressing the origin of the fire and its scale will lead to similar consequences in the future, and possibly more terrible. It’s not so difficult to find the culprits with current technologies, especially since even in the forest there are cameras that can accurately record the quarter of fire with an accuracy of 100 meters.
Forest fire is not a typical fire in a city, because it’s not just an apartment, a separate building or warehouse that burns. No disrespect to the Emergency Situations Service, but it should be noted that rescuers do not work in a circus, and to tame the element, which is always larger than human strength and ability, they are not the Lord God, they have to learn everything, including skill eliminate large-scale forest fires.
It`s worth thinking
Official data: As of April 17, 2020, Kiev is the leader in the ranking of the quality and air pollution of cities in the world, although it was on the sixth place two days ago. Combustion products and significant smoke are recorded in the air. The capital is periodically covered by a rather unusual phenomenon for the city – a dust storm. The reason for this is the mentioned fires in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, in the Zone of unconditional compulsory resettlement, and in the Zhytomyr region. A strong gusty north-west wind amplifies these negative factors, which causes some concern among people. In addition, due to the prolonged absence of precipitation and drying out of the soil in the indicated fire sources, the upper layers of this soil are blown out by gusts of wind and moved to the surface layers of atmospheric air.
Nevertheless, according to the director of the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center, Mykola Kulbida, the situation is gradually improving, the residual effects of the movement of dust particles will be observed for some time, but this phenomenon does not pose any chemical and radiological threat.