Damage from forest fires in Russia is the largest since the beginning of accounting, says Greenpeace

Analysis shows that more than 18.16 million hectares were destroyed in 2021, an absolute record since satellite monitoring began

Russia has experienced the worst wildfire season in the country’s modern history, according to the latest data from the Russian Forestry Agency analyzed by Greenpeace.

Fires destroyed more than 18.16 million hectares of Russian forests in 2021, setting an absolute record since the country began monitoring forest fires by satellite in 2001. The previous record was set in 2012, when fires engulfed 18.11 million hectares of forest.

The record was surpassed late last week after a prolonged fire season that also led to unprecedented levels of global emissions from wildfires and turned the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of people living in Siberia and other regions of central Russia upside down.

“With fires exceeding 15 million hectares in the past few years, this has likely become the new normal under the new climate reality,” Greenpeace Russia writes.

The first victims of these fires are residents of Siberia, where a dry, hot summer has turned vast taiga forests into a “burning furnace. In Yakutia, a northern Siberian region that has been hit particularly hard, smog covered the capital Yakutsk for weeks, and villagers had to band together in a last-ditch effort to save their homes.

“Rescue workers have arrived, and villagers are also fighting the fires, but they can’t put them out, can’t stop them,” Varvara, a 63-year-old resident of the remote village of Teryut, said by telephone in July. “Everything burns.”

The statistics don’t take into account other types of fires that occur outside Russian forests. “If we counted all fires – grass fires, reed fires, tundra fires where there is no forest fund – we would get an even bigger figure,” writes Grigory Kuxin, head of Greenpeace Russia’s firefighting project. According to him, the total area could be up to 30 million hectares, which corresponds to the area of Italy or Poland.

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