Russia allocates $7.4 million to help fight forest fires in Yakutia

“We understand the difficulties faced by Yakutia,” says Ivan Sovetnikov, the head of Russia’s federal forestry agency. “This is a large area of ​​forests, with hard-to-reach regions, a lack of manpower and limited resources. (Maria Vasilyeva/Government of the Sakha Republic)

Russia’s federal government has allocated 450 million rubles ($7.4 million CDN) to help fight forest fires in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia).

The money will be dispersed over five years and mainly allocated towards buying equipment.

Fires are a natural part of the boreal forest life cycle, but in recent years, temperature increases in some regions of the Arctic have increased the duration and intensity of the fires. 

Yakutia, located in Russia’s northeast, was among the areas hardest hit in recent years.

A 2020 report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) showed that the region experienced temperature anomalies of more than three degrees from January to October. In some of the central coastal parts of Siberia, temperatures were more than 5 C above average.

Yakutia also posted a record-breaking 38 degree C temperature on June 20, 2020 in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk.

Siberian temperatures were up to 10 degrees above average in May 2020, something that the “exceptionally early” break up of ice on Siberia’s rivers likely  contributed to, the World Meteorological Organization said last year. (World Meteorological Organization)

The new funding for Yakutia was announced by Sergey Anoprienko, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, on Tuesday during a meeting with Yakutian officials and representatives of Rosleskhoz, Russia’s federal forestry agency.

Fighting fires in the region is an additional challenge because of its vast distances and the inaccessibility of many areas.

“We understand the difficulties faced by Yakutia,” Ivan Sovetnikov, the head of Russia’s federal forestry agency, said in a news release on Tuesday.

“This is a large area of ​​forests, with hard-to-reach regions, a lack of manpower and limited resources. But we are convinced that [wildfires] in the area can, and should be, significantly lower than last year.”

A Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite image taken of Siberian wildfires and plumes of smoke on July 28, 2020. (European Space Agency)

Anoprienko said fire management education should also be stressed in the lead up to wildfire season, saying human-caused fires in the region can easily get out of control.

 “A lot depends on municipal leaders and village councils at the local level,” he said.

“[Things like] agricultural burns can have serious consequences. A lot depends on local actions and on the residents of the settlements.”  

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Fire season in Yukon, northwestern Canada was ‘complex and challenging’, CBC News

Russia: New NOAA report finds vast Siberian wildfires linked to Arctic warming, The Associated Press

Norway: Arctic summer 2019: record heat, dramatic ice loss and raging wildfires, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: 2019 Arctic wildfire season ‘unprecedented’ say experts, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish municipalities to cooperate in fighting future wildfires, Radio Sweden

United States: Drivers describe ‘hellfire’ on Southcentral Alaska highwayAlaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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