Fires are among the most significant threats to forests and their biological diversity. Fires have a devastating effect on all elements of forest ecosystems, many animals and plants die in the fire, including rare and endangered ones. Even more disastrous is the destruction of habitats, the restoration of which can take hundreds of years, which threatens the survival of many species. Fires are among the main reasons for intact forest degradation, which Russia may lose as early as in 80 years. Anthropogenic fires account for 60% of the total area of their loss. Moreover, fires pose a threat to the lives of local residents in settlements adjacent to forests, and also negatively affect climate change throughout the planet, increasing the CO2 content in the atmosphere due to losses of carbon accumulated in forests.
Fire statistics in Russia in recent years continues to confidently beat all anti-records. At least 3 million hectares of forests are completely destroyed every year due to fires. This is 3 times more than the area of forests used annually for industrial logging. The area of forests affected by fire is even larger: the average annual figure previously fluctuated around 10 million hectares. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, it has grown significantly to 16 million hectares. And in 2021, according to the ISDM-Rosleskhoz system, it reached a historical maximum of 18.79 million hectares.
Due to the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, including prolonged periods of heat and drought, the risks of forest fires and the rapid spread of fire to nearby territories are growing every year. Every new year can set another fire record of the century.
IN ORDER TO PROTECT VALUABLE FORESTS OF RUSSIA FROM FIRES, THE WWF-RUSSIA’S FOREST PROGRAM CONDUCTS COMPREHENSIVE WORK IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS:
Development of proposals for improving regulation, involvement of stakeholders and the general public in fire prevention and extinguishing:
- improvement of regulations and laws;
- creation of an effective firefighting system in protected areas;
- improvement of FSC certification standards;
- lobbying for increased funding and staffing of firefighters;
- cooperation with media;
- involvement of responsible business in the implementation of fire prevention projects;
- promotion of the principles of responsible fire management;
- promotion of the principles of openness and reliability of forest fire statistics.
Research and analysis:
- identification of the causes of fires and development of proposals for their elimination;
- assessment of the dynamics of fires, identification of risks and weaknesses in the fire protection system, development of proposals to improve its effectiveness.
Forest fires monitoring and firefighting support:
- introduction of innovative technologies for operational monitoring and support of firefighting, including space monitoring, using unmanned aerial vehicles, fire monitoring systems using video cameras;
- development of a publicly available Web-GIS project that visualizes wildfires and provides opportunities for their analysis, setting up warnings about emerging fires;
- a mobile app for volunteer firefighters;
- creation of a system of accurate lightning direction finding and lightning protection for the places with high proportion of lightning fires.
Field projects to fight and prevent fires in the regions, including supply of fire-fighting equipment to volunteer firefighters, protected areas and other stakeholders:
- direct support of volunteer firefighters and fire-fighting units in protected areas;
- support of forest fire prevention measures (creation of fire breaks, barriers and other infrastructure).
- Training in methods of monitoring, extinguishing and preventing fires.
WWF-Russia’s position on forest fires is HERE.