A dozen villages in northeastern Siberia’s Sakha-Yakutia republic were threatened by the fires, according to the regional task force dealing with the emergency. Local authorities were moving the residents of two villages, Kalvitsa and Kharyyalakh, to other inhabited areas as crews totaling 3,600 people worked to contain about half of the blazes.
On Saturday, flames destroyed 31 houses and eight maintenance buildings in another village, Byas-Kuel, and about 400 residents were evacuated, local officials said.
Yakutia governor Aysen Nikolayev ordered officials to clear fire trails around the endangered settlements of dead wood and fallen trees. Yakutia’s government website had stated earlier that Nikolayev had a deforestation of areas around the endangered villages, but his spokespeople said it was a mistake and there has been no such order.
Experts blame the worsening fire situation on a 2007 decision to disband a federal aviation network that spotted and combatted wildfires. The network’s assets were transferred to regional authorities, a much-criticized move that led to the fire-spotting force’s rapid decline.
The forests that cover huge areas of Russia make identifying new fires a challenge.