Largest forest fire since 1992 endangers Chernobyl nuclear plant.

A forest fire has broken out in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, within 20 km of the nuclear plant.

(Sputnik) The forest fire is being fought by more than 200 firefighters, National Guard was put on high alert… A forest fire has erupted in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. More than 200 firefighters, 15 fire engines, two aircraft and one helicopter are battling the fire, according to Ukraine’s acting emergencies minister Zoran Shkiryak.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on his Facebook page that as of 6:30 PM Kiev time (3:30 PM GMT) the situation had gotten worse and the fire was approaching the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

“The forest fire is heading in the direction of Chernobyl’s installations. Treetop flames and strong gusts of wind have created a real danger of the fire spreading to an area within 20 kilometers of the power plant. There are about 400 hectares [988 acres] of forests in the endangered area. The Prime Minister has called an urgent session of the emergencies commission. National Guard and Interior Ministry forces have been put on combat alert”, Avakov’s statement reads…

According to the statement, Yatsenyuk has stressed that the authorities are tackling the situation despite the fact that the fire is the largest seen since 1992.

According to this article (Russian, Google translation):

Fire on the territory of special plant “Chornobyl Forest” can lead to secondary contamination by radioactive substances, said in comments RIA Novosti Ukrainian ecologist Vladimir Boreyko.

It is worth noting that according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, in the exclusion zone of 400 hectares of forest burn. However, according to environmentalists, which is based on images from space, fire area exceeds 10 thousand hectares…

As stated in an interview with RT Deputy Coordinator “Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus,” Dmitry Shevchenko when burning wood is not only carbon dioxide emissions, and soot, which spreads over hundreds and thousands of kilometers. Fire around the Chernobyl zone, according to experts, is dangerous because the radionuclides contained in the wood, into the atmosphere, may fall anywhere and spread over a long distance.

Shevchenko said that the Chernobyl zone is especially important to preserve the forest, because they are naturally conservative radionuclides that accumulate in the soil and wood.

Ukrainian ecologist Vladimir Boreyko believes that the fire on the territory of special plant “Chornobyl Forest” can lead to secondary contamination by radioactive substances. “We need to figure out where it burns wood: where the radiation spot, or where these spots are not. If there are spots where there is, it’s just air pollution. If there are spots where it is, of course, that’s too bad, because it is a secondary contamination by radioactive substances “- quoted by RIA Novosti ecologist.”

It was discovered recently that trees did not decay in the highly contaminated Red Forest near Chernobyl.

Scientists who have been studying the environment inside the Zone of Alienation since 1991 noticed something about these trees, specifically what they described as “a significant accumulation of litter over time” in a study published recently in Oecologia. And by “significant,” they mean the trees are not decomposing and their leaves are just sitting there on the ground, not decomposing either. This is especially so in the Red Forest, an area of woodland around Chernobyl named thusly because the trees turned a ginger color and died due to the worst radiation poisoning in the area. In an interview with Smithsonian magazine, lead author of the study and biologist at the University of South Carolina Timothy Mousseau called all this non-decayed organic matter “striking, given that in the forests where I live, a fallen tree is mostly sawdust after a decade of lying on the ground.”

The reason for this lack of decay around Chernobyl is that microbes, bacteria, fungi, worms, insects, and other living organisms known as decomposers (because they feed on dead organisms) are just not there and not doing their jobs. Mousseau and his team discovered this after leaving 600 bags of leaves around Chernobyl in 2007. When they collected the bags in 2008, they found that the bags filled with leaves placed in areas with no radiation had decomposed by 70 to 90 percent, but the leaves in areas with radiation? They only decomposed about 40 percent. “There is growing concern that there could be a catastrophic fire in the coming years,” Mousseau told Smithsonian. (link)

Last week, smoke from massive Siberian fires was seen on satellite over the US east coast. Expect this plume to hit the US within a week.