A forest fire raging in northeastern Siberia could become the largest on record, Greenpeace Russia experts said.
The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Russia’s largest and coldest region, is devastated by unprecedented forest fires that now exceed all other fires in the world combined. Residents have been on a state of emergency for weeks, as thick, acrid smoke envelops human settlements and reaches cities thousands of kilometers away, and thousands of volunteers are drawn to fight the fires.
The area of the largest of these fires has exceeded 1.5 million hectares, Greenpeace environmental group forestry chief Alexei Yaroshenko told the newspaper.
“This fire has to grow by about 400,000 hectares to become the largest fire in documented history,” Yaroshenko said. It’s impossible to contain this fire by human effort.” … Firefighters would have to put out a 2,000-kilometer line of fire.”
Only rain can stop or significantly slow this fire, Yaroshenko said, but the current rainfall is too weak for that.
“At best, we can save the settlements and infrastructure that are in the path of the fire,” he said.
Greenpeace expert Yulia Davydova said the key factor in the unprecedented spread of fires is harmful forestry practices because regional authorities are not required to extinguish fires in so-called “control zones” – areas far from populated areas. According to new data obtained by Greenpeace, another common cause is deforestation, both illegal and legal.
According to the European Union’s Copernicus satellite monitoring service, the wildfire season is weeks away, and Siberian forest fires have already released a record 505 megatons of carbon dioxide.
And satellite observations from NASA’s MODIS instrument showed that smoke from wildfires last week reached the North Pole for the first time ever.
Nationwide, wildfires burned more than 13.4 million hectares of land in 2021, an area roughly the size of Greece, Greenpeace reported, citing official figures.