WWF-Russia supports firefighting efforts in Yakutia

Posted on 19 August 2021

Brand new all-terrain vehicles, motor pumps and other fire-fighting equipment has been transferred to the regional protected areas of Yakutia to fight the wildfires.
Russia is facing record levels of fires, with the Republic of Sakha (also known as Yakutia), the largest region in Russia, most threatened. The total area of forest fires from the start of 2021 till 17 August has reached over 17 million hectares, the second largest number recorded in the last two decades, after 2012, when total fire levels in the country reached about 18 million hectares. 

"This is more than in any other year in this century in Russia except 2012. But 2021 comes in a close second, and there is a high risk it will beat the record of 2012 and take the lead," says Konstantin Kobyakov, High Conservation Value Forest Projects Coordinator at WWF-Russia. 

Most of the forest fires this year, roughly 9.9 million hectares thus far, are in Yakutia. The area of active forest fires burning today is 6.9 million hectares. Rains have helped stop the increase of forest fires; however, it is too early to speak about the end of forest fires season either in Yakutia or all over Russia.  

WWF efforts to tackle wildfires

The mobile firefighting teams that are working in the regional protected areas of Yakutia received new equipment and purchased equipment as part of an emergency fundraising project of WWF-Russia. During the first three days of the campaign, more than two million rubles were donated to the campaign, and the first batch of WWF aid has already been sent to the front line. 

"The situation with the fires remains tense. The Ministry of Emergency Situations and other forces are working in the Republic, but we are fighting the fire in regional protected areas on our own. For 23 years of my work, I do not remember such fires," says Yakov Sivtsev, director of the Department of Biological Resources, Specially Protected Natural Territories and Natural Parks, of the Ministry of Ecology of Yakutia. "Thanks to the supporters of WWF-Russia, we have all-terrain vehicles Sokol, which are already helping to fight a fire in the Sinyaya natural park."

In addition to ATVs, motor pumps, walkie-talkies, radio stations, shovels, chainsaws,  etc. have also been taken to the places affected by fires. The other part of the equipment is being prepared for transfer to mobile teams. 

Mobile brigades have been fighting for the second month, and as fire equipment wears out quickly, forces and resources are runing out.

"Thanks to our supporters, we managed to very quickly transfer the first batch of necessary supplies to the regional protected areas of Yakutia, and speed in firefighting is very important," says Irina Onufrenya, Head of the WWF-Russia Biodiversity Conservation Program.

Now the new equipment is working on the territory of the Sinyaya natural park  There are only 14 people who are fighting the fires in the park; they have a tractor “Belorus”, two all-terrain vehicles and now 2 more ATVs "Sokol", purchased by WWF-Russia. 

WWF-Russia's position on forest fires can be found here
Forest fires in Yakutia.
© Anatoly Alekseev
Forest fires in Yakutia.
© Anatoly Alekseev
Forest fires in Yakutia.
© Anatoly Alekseev