I don’t like environmentalists. Most of them are insane fanatics who have been victimized by terrorist organizations like Greenpeace. The sole purpose of such organizations is to troll big corporations and c0untries.
—Ilya Varlamov, popular Russian blogger, May 22, 2016
It Is Too Late to Put Out the Fires in the Far East and Eastern Siberia
May 23, 2016
Greenpeace Russia and the federal fire detection system have discovered catastrophic fires in Amur Region, Transbaikal Territory, and Buryatia that cannot be extinguished, because the country simply lacks the manpower and resources to do it.
Here are the data from the Russian Federal Forestry Agency’s Distant Monitoring Information System (IDSM) for a single major fire underway in the Shimanovsk, Svobodny, and Blagoveshchensk Districts of Amur Region. According to ISDM, the fire covered an area of 248,000 hectares as of this morning.
Yet, in its morning update, the Aerial Forest Protection Service (Avialesokhrana) mentioned less than 21,000 hectares burning in Amur Region. In total, according to these reports, 65,00 hectares are burning nationwide.
“If current trends continue, 2016 could be the worst year for forest fires since the beginning of the twenty-first century, surpassing the figures for 2003 and 2012 in terms of the size of the forest fires,” says Alexei Yaroshenko, head of Greenpeace Russia’s forestry department.
The area of just one fire in Amur Region is thirteen times larger than the size of the fires listed in the official report for the region and four times larger than all fires reported by officials nationwide.
The size of the remaining fires is difficult to calculate. Smoke prevents satellites from recording hotspots, and experts from viewing burnt black forest. However, according to preliminary estimates, it is also already close to three million hectares. Amur Region accounts for approximately a third of this area, while the rest is roughly evenly divided between Buryatia and Transbaikal Territory.
Such shameless lying in reporting has been observed throughout this fire season. No one will go out to fight fires that do not exist on paper, and this prevents extinguishing fires at an early stage. Now, when it is impossible to do anything, the lies continue.
“We have had problems with divergence [among reported figures] on the sizes [of the fires in] Amur Region, Buryatia, and Chelyabinsk Region, and there have been problems with Irkutsk Region” acknowledged Nikolai Krotov, deputy head of the Federal Forestry Agency. “We do not rule out the fact that political and subjective factors might exist, and information in one format or another is transmitted to the outside world in a different way.”
We should recall that Avialesokhrana’s reports are based on data sent to it by regional authorities.
Can nothing really be done?
Our country has been burning from year to year. Foresters do not have the resources and manpower to put out the fires, while officials do not have the resources and manpower to acknowledge the fires.
“The authority over forest management and firefighting that was transferred to the regions is at best subsidized by the federal budget at ten to twenty percent,” explains Yaroshenko.
Greenpeace Russia demands that foresters be allocated decent financing and released from unnecessary bureaucracy, and that lies about the fires be ended.
How do we calculate the size of fires?
To assess the size of current forest fires, Greenpeace uses MODIS and VIIRS satellite imagery and the FIRMS system for detecting hotspots throughout the entire life cycle of major forest fires. At the same time, Greenpeace follows State Standard (GOST) 17.6.1.01-83, according to which the area of a forest fire is defined as “the area within the contour of the forest fire where there is evidence of fire’s impact on vegetation,” and Paragraph 67 of the Rules for Fighting Forest Fires, which stipulates that “in cases when burning has resumed within five days in the extinguished sectors of a neutralized forest fire, the fire is deemed to have resumed.”
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AM for the heads-up. The paragraph highlighted in red, above, has been heavily altered to reflect the actual quotation from Kommersant newspaper article on which it was, allegedly, based.