Posted on: May 5, 2020 at 3:05 pm

During the 2019-2020 winter season, the entire world watched in horror as bushfires swept across Australia, killing thousands of animals in the process. Now, as warm weather returns to the northern hemisphere, wildfire season is already beginning, and authorities are becoming increasingly concerned about what could be the worst fire season on record.

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Siberian Wildfires

According to Russian Emergencies Minister, Evgeny Zinichev, fires in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, on April 27 were already ten times larger than on the same day the previous year. Fires in Transbaikal were covering three times as much surface area, and in the Amur region, it was one and a half times as much [1].

Unfortunately, the combination of climate change, the current COVID-19 pandemic, and human error have likely been the reason for the increase in wildfires. 

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Authorities have confirmed that the fires are originating from multiple sources, including agricultural fires that have gotten out of control, arson, and unattended campfires. Sergei Anoprienko, head of the Federal Forest Agency Rosleskhoz, says that with temperatures soaring to around 30 degrees C [86 degrees F], many people have chosen to self-isolate outdoors, but have forgotten safety rules.

“People rushed outdoors, and as a result we have a surge of thermal points,” he said [1].

According to NASA, strong winds on April 23 pushed fires set by locals to dry out the grass out of control, affecting nine regions in Siberia. Using their Terra satellite, NASA captured images of some of these fires [2].

The situation is now being referred to as critical. Krasnoyarsk told president Vladimir Putin that the main source of the fires has been unauthorized and uncontrolled agricultural fires.

“A less snowy winter, an abnormal winter, and insufficient soil moisture are factors that create the conditions for the transition of landscape fires to settlements,” he said [3].

Wildfire Season has Just Begun

Anoprienko warns that it is very early in the season to see fires this size, and expects that it will only get worse as Russia enters the summer months [1].

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Agricultural fires in Siberia have been banned since 2015, but despite the regulatory prohibitions, many people are still continuing the practice of burning dry grass. Krasnoyarsk is calling for tougher punishments for those who have started fires that have gotten out of control, causing significant damage or death [3].

Other parts of the northern hemisphere, such as California and many places in Europe, also experienced a much milder, drier winter, which has officials concerned about what the summer months will bring.

“Snow and precipitation statewide were well below average [in January],” said Sean de Guzman, chief of the California Department of Water Resources’ snow surveys and water supply forecasting section [4].

A combination of hot, dry weather, combined with high winds, is the perfect storm for starting rapidly-spreading wildfires. While many areas in California did, thankfully, receive some rainfall in April, authorities are still saying that there is a large potential for significant wildfires from May through August [5].

You Can Help

While none of us, of course, can change the weather, we can help to prevent wildfires through our own actions.

During the upcoming dry months, it is of utmost importance that we all listen to authorities and refrain from building fires during high-risk times. If you must start a fire, it should be attended to with extreme care to prevent it from getting out of control.

“In May – June, a dangerous period usually begins in Siberia,” said Anoprienko. “We can keep talking about the forecast for a very long time, but the actual fire situation will literally depend on us and you – on how we will behave.” [1]

Keep Reading: As Radiation Levels Rise, Chernobyl Forest Fires Now Burning Dangerously Close To Nuclear Reactor

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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