The wildfire raging in northeastern Siberia could be the largest on record, experts from Greenpeace Russia said.
The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the largest and coldest region in Russia, has been devastated by unprecedented wildfires that currently exceed all other fires in the world combined. Residents have been in a state of emergency for several weeks now, as thick, acrid smoke envelops communities and reaches cities thousands of kilometers away, and thousands of volunteers are recruited to fight the fires.
The area of the largest of these fires exceeded 1.5 million hectares, the head of forestry of the ecological group Greenpeace Alexey Yaroshenko told the newspaper.
"This fire must grow by about 400,000 hectares to become the largest in documented history," Yaroshenko said. It is impossible to contain this fire by human efforts. "… Firefighters would have to extinguish a line of fire 2000 kilometers long."
Only rain can stop or significantly slow down this fire, Yaroshenko said, but the current rainfall is too weak for that.
"In the best case, we will be able to save the settlements and infrastructure that is in the path of fire," he said.
Greenpeace expert Yulia Davydova said that harmful forestry practices are a key factor in the unprecedented spread of fires, since regional authorities are not obliged to extinguish fires in the so-called "zones of control" - areas remote from settlements. Deforestation, both illegal and legal, is another common cause, according to new data obtained by Greenpeace.
According to the European Union's satellite monitoring service Copernicus, there are several weeks left before the start of the forest fire season, and Siberian wildfires have already emitted a record 505 megatons of carbon dioxide.
And NASA's MODIS satellite observations showed smoke from wildfires last week reached the North Pole for the first time in history.
Across the country in 2021, forest fires burned more than 13.4 million hectares of land - an area roughly the size of Greece, according to Greenpeace, citing official figures.