Forests in the Chernobyl zone have been burning for more than 20 days. As soon as rescuers manage to extinguish some hotbeds of flame, the fire resumes with renewed vigor on others. Several hundred rescuers are risking their lives again, in a mortal battle with the elements. The April fires in the Chernobyl zone, like an alarm, shook the whole of Ukraine. They recalled the 34th anniversary of the tragedy at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, as a ghost from the past, which has a chance to rise from the ashes.
According to experts, the reason for this situation is as follows:
The absence in Ukraine of an adequate interdepartmental system for the protection of forests, peat bogs, and other natural landscapes from ignition due to a large fire.
The fire has already destroyed dozens of abandoned villages and tourist sites, caused panic among people. Can the Chernobyl disaster happen again? The situation revealed other problems as well, including mistrust of official messages, along with the rapid spread of fakes.
Problems have surfaced that have remained unresolved for decades. In the first place, there is complex communication between those who, in one way or another, are involved in the exclusion zone. On the other hand, this situation united people who began to help rescuers, realizing that we can lose something more than material things in these fires.
Beginning Chernobyl 2020
It all starts simply. Just a few seconds and one lit match, one click of a lighter or an abandoned cigarette butt are enough for a big tragedy. What is this: malicious intent or fun caused by human stupidity or carelessness?
Of course, there are other options such as spontaneous combustion, lightning, sparks from power lines. But not this time. Law enforcement officers, firefighters and workers of the exclusion zone are sure that the forests in the Chernobyl zone were on fire for almost two weeks due to arson. We know yet whether these arson attacks were deliberate or caused by negligence. What we know for sure – there is no way to return what has become ashes.
Animals are the first to notice the fire. They do not like the smell of smoke and hot dry air. They have a great fear of the sound of a flame that occurs as a result of burning grass, dry branches, leaves or trees. Animals in panic begin to look for other, safe places. They move farther and farther from the fire, in order to subsequently return to the burnt-out, but well-known places. However, not everyone is able to escape.
Large animals, such as: bears that come from the Belarusian part, wolves, lynxes, elks, deer, roe deer, wild boars, Przewalski’s horses are a typical reserve of the European forest fauna. When they smell fire, they run away. Small animals are another matter. Insects, amphibians, reptiles that do not have such mobility, small mammals, mouse-like rodents, small predators … If a fire caught them suddenly, and they did not have time to hide in burrows, they die or receive very serious burns.
The Chernobyl zone cannot but burn
“Fires happen every year, not always as big as now, but they do happen. Here, you need to understand what the exclusion zone is. The so-called melioration of chernozem was carried out in the Soviet Union, in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. It is a large-scale and very expensive program to drain swamp areas.
Much drainage reclamation canals were built. As a result, this changed the water regime of the territory, its landscape and vegetation. Marina Shkvyrya, a candidate of biological sciences, says. The climate changes every year, winters are getting warmer and drier. And the entire exclusion zone is an almost continuous monoculture of pine trees, artificial plantations. And it cannot but burn.”
It is burning
The fire in the Chernobyl zone began on April 4, near the former village of Vladimirovka. The likely cause is arson. The fire area is about 20 hectares. At first, 90 rescuers tried to extinguish it with the help of 18 pieces of equipment, including aviation. Over the next ten days, the fire began to engulf more and more areas, leaving behind burnt trees and villages. At the same time, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine assured that everything was under control and there was no reason for panic.
On April 10, about 400 rescuers and 100 pieces of equipment, including three planes and two helicopters, are extinguishing the fire. According to the State Emergency Service, the grassy flooring, reeds, forest flooring in different parts of the Zone caught fire. There are new sources of fire, which someone has discovered. So, rescuers do not have time, moving from place to place, to extinguish the fire. The geography is very large. It began in the Polesie region. Then fires covered almost the entire territory at a distance of more than 100 km.
The wind has intensified
On April 13, the fire began to approach Pripyat, to the storage of radioactive waste. The situation became critical. The zone was blazing in flames, the fire was rapidly capturing new territories. However, there were further assurances from official sources that the situation was completely under control.
There are two options: whether the country’s leadership was not reported on the real scale of the fires, or the government chose a policy of silence, as in 1986.
When the fire reached Pripyat and was only 2 km from the Podlesny radioactive waste storage facility, social networks literally boiled with indignation, which attracted the attention of journalists and caused even more concern among citizens. The Ukrainians were gripped by despair that they were not being told the whole truth about the situation around Chernobyl again, that the history that had developed in the country after the Chernobyl accident in 1986 was being repeated.
This time, the reaction of the authorities turned out to be more prompt. The State Emergency Service began to regularly notify about the radiation background in Kiev and the region. Fortunately, it was within normal limits. Official information reassure some people : “The fire does not pose a threat to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, spent nuclear fuel storage and other critical facilities. The State Emergency Situations Service asks not to interfere with rescuers to carry out their work and to ensure prompt extinguishing of fires that occur in the exclusion zone. “
Each of us has lost something
The fire in the Chernobyl zone has fueled a long debate about who has the right to be there and who does not. There are always many participants in this discussion: the administration of the Exclusion Zone, stalkers, foresters, travel agencies, immigrants. In a word, all those who, in one way or another, are related to the Zone.
“Now, there are no employees or official visitors in the Chernobyl zone. There are only illegal guests – stalkers. And, most likely, the fires are still the work of their hands, ” Yaroslav Emelianenko, the director of Chornobyl Tour, says.
“There has always been a certain tension in relations between stalkers and the Chernobyl administration. These are two completely different poles. For some, the task is to fulfill the law, whatever it may be. The second is pursued by the desire to enter the territory by any means, and carry people there, risking their own lives. Of course, there are dissatisfied stalkers, travel agencies, foresters, State Emergency Service employees, and the administration of the zone. There are completely different views on what and how this should happen in the zone,” Emelianenko notes.
As you know, there are many complaints from the migrants who are allowed into the Zone only on strictly defined days, from April 26 to May 9. Some of them are outraged by the fact that some can go there for money as much as they want, but they can only get to their homes only occasionally. Everyone has a different goal and different reasons for visiting the Chernobyl zone.
The current fire has affected everyone, everyone has lost something. It is difficult to understand, it is even more difficult to accept. So, I would like to find out as soon as possible who benefits from the fires around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant? In the meantime, the foreground for the Zone is one salvation. It is rain, as often and as long as possible.