The Heat Is Online

Siberian Fires Fueled by Record Temperatures

Summer heat sends Siberian taiga up in flames

Agence France-Presse, May 25, 1999

MOSCOW -- (AFP) -- Forest fires raged in at least four Siberian regions over the last week as temperatures rose to record levels at the start of the hottest dry season in years, reports said Tuesday.

Thousands of hectares (acres) of taiga, the thick coniferous forest that serves as one of the region's richest resources, were reported ablaze from Siberia's most central region to the country's east coast.

The republic of Buryatia, sandwiched between Mongolia and Lake Baikal, became the fourth region in the last week to suffer from the outbreak, when some 5,000 hectares (12,500 acres) in the republic went up in flames, a Russian news agency reported Tuesday.

Siberia, where an abnormally warm summer recently began with temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius, is reeling from a year of radical meteorological extremes.

A reluctant and unusually humid Spring left several of Siberia's largest rivers frozen past their time, before emergency measures to free them for navigation unleashed massive flooding. As summer rapidly set in, fires began to spread through the central Siberian Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk regions, as well as the coastal region of Khabarovsk, ITAR-TASS reported.

Emergency services in the regions have dispatched hundreds of fire fighters to battle the blazes but say their efforts are hampered by the remoteness of parts of the forests and a severe shortage of fuel and supplies.

The Russian Far East is still recovering from last year's disastrous outbreak of fires, when almost one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of taiga, or coniferous forest, were destroyed, resulting in the loss of entire villages.