- The vast, lush, green of Siberia’s forests is black and smouldering. The fires rage on, already scorching an area the size of Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands combined - seven million hectares. I can see the haze 4500km away in Moscow. You can see the smoke from space. It seems unimaginable and unmanageable, but there is something you can do about it.
The smoke from these wildfires covers 12 regions in Siberia; from the banks of the great Volga river and reaching far to the West. It isn’t dangerous for Moscovities yet – but millions of people are suffering from toxic smoke in Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Kazan and other Russian cities.
These fires are destroying one of the largest forested regions in the world – the Russian Boreal. The forests here are one of the most ‘biologically outstanding’ places on our planet. It is home to a range of species – from wolves and brown bears to golden eagles and Siberian accentors.
On the front of this firefight
The determination to protect our forests and health is bringing people together to find solutions. The Greenpeace Russia Wildland Fire Program (WFP) works with volunteers on the ground to find those solutions all over Russia. Our experts lobby on behalf of our forests. And we have had victories.
Fighting wildfires is part of what we do. Our mission is to protect valuable natural reserves and parks and teach volunteers to do the same. Drawing on years of experience, local groups have become more effective than the official forest management bodies. This July, near lake Lagoda, experienced volunteers trained with Greenpeace Russia to strengthen their expertise to lead groups of volunteers in their own regions. People from Irkutskaya, Buryatia, Astrakhan – areas suffering from fires – worked from morning to evening to become better volunteers, firefighters and leaders.
Russian experts also shared their experience with colleagues in East Asia, to help organise local firefighting groups, because forest fires are a huge problem there too. They were happy to learn how to suppress peat fires – one of the most difficult fires to fight.
Wildfires have no borders
Forest fires release massive amounts of carbon. This fuels climate change, which makes the fires worse and threatens communities around the world. That’s why it’s important for all of us to help fight wildfires. Responsibility to protect the planet’s forests belongs to all of us, not just because of their innate beauty, but also for their vital role in stabilising the climate.