The Guardian today reports on the increasing threat that Siberian forest fires are causing to the global environment.
Fires in the Siberian forests – the largest in the world and vital to the planet’s health – have increased tenfold in the last 20 years and could again rage out of control this summer, Russian scientists warn.
They say they have neither the money nor the equipment to control or extinguish the huge forests fires often started illegally and deliberately in the Russian far east by rogue timber firms who plan to sell cheap lumber to China.
I remember a couple of huge fires when I was in Irkutsk, a couple of springs ago. You could occasionally see the smoke hazing up the atmosphere, and I’d hear about how helicopters were dumping water on the flames to try and extinguish them if they got too close to a village or town.
More scary to me, though, were the small fires that used to break out all over town in tinder dry parks and patches of wasteland. People never seemed to do anything to put them out, but instead left them to burn themselves out. Coming from the green and somewhat damp environment of England the idea of letting a fire burn itself out in the middle of a city seemed to be a trifle dangerous to me, but I figure it can’t have been that dangerous, otherwise someone would have done something to put them out, right? Right?
This is an interesting item and reminds me of the fires 2 or 3 years ago in peat bogs outside of Moscow which led to the entire city being enveloped in a smoky, eye-stinging haze for several days. It also made me think of how many times in Russian cities you see a fire – granted, usually a pretty small one – burning out of control in a trash can or sidewalk “urn” where someone has combined an unextinguished cigarette or two and a bunch of newspaper or cellophane. I am so familiar with this that I even recognize the distinctive smell of such fires. And usually no one makes a visible effort to put them out.
The novel Gorky Park featured a lengthy peat bog fire scene. Well, the book did at least.