State of Emergency in Russia’s Yakutia Expanded Over Fires

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
August 13, 2021 Updated: August 13, 2021

MOSCOW—Russian authorities expanded a state of emergency in northeast Siberia on Friday to bring in outside resources to combat wildfires that have engulfed the vast region.

Russian Emergencies Minister Yevgeny Zinichev declared the state of emergency for Sakha-Yakutia. The move should help organize the transfer of firefighting resources from other regions to help fight the blazes in Yakutia, which is Russia’s largest territory and bigger than Argentina.

The vast territory, also known as the Sakha Republic, has faced a spell of particularly devastating wildfires this year following months of hot and dry weather featuring record-breaking temperatures.

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Volunteers pause while working at the scene of a forest fire near Kyuyorelyakh village at Gorny Ulus area west of Yakutsk, in Russia, on Aug. 7, 2021. (Ivan Nikiforov/AP Photo)

On Friday, officials reported 117 active forest fires burning across nearly 1.4 million hectares (3.4 million acres) in Yakutia, which encompasses 308.4 million hectares (762 million acres).

Smoke from burning forests has enveloped wide areas and forced the airport in the regional capital of Yakutsk to suspend operations Thursday. Flights resumed Friday to what is often described as the coldest city on Earth.

The hot weather coupled with the neglect of fire safety rules has caused a growing number of fires.

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An airview of the Byas-Kuel village after a wild fire, in Russia Far East, on Aug. 8, 2021. (NewsYkt via AP)

Experts blame the worsening situation with fires on a 2007 decision to disband a federal aviation network tasked to spot and combat fires and turn its assets over to regional authorities. The forests that cover huge areas of Russia make spotting new fires a challenge, and the much-criticized transfer led to the force’s rapid decline.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press