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11 Aug, 2010 20:23

Goodwill and better weather, but Russia still ablaze

Moscow is breathing more freely after overnight rain washed away much of the suffocating smoke which has been tormenting the Russian capital for days.

But the record-breaking heat-wave still lingers, and hundreds of fires continue to burn across the country.

One of the worst-affected regions is Ryazan, 200 kilometers south of Moscow.

Much of the forests here are still engulfed in flames. The local emergency services have been working around the clock here for three weeks trying to contain the fires, which still show no sign of letting up.

The situation here is critical. That’s why on Tuesday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came to the Ryazan Region to do what he can. Although there is a little bit of optimism since a rain is forecast.

Daniel Collier saw the reports of the forest blazes raging in Russia, and felt compelled to offer his help.

A veteran British fire-fighter has written a letter to Vladimir Putin, offering to come and join the unfair battle against the natural disaster.

With that in mind, Daniel is preparing for action – he says he is ready to go to the airport the moment he receives word that his help is welcome.

“Although I’ve retired from the fire service after 30 years, I still feel that burning desire to help people,” Collier confessed. “Russia in particular, because of the problem they’ve got at the moment with the wildfires.”

People from all around the world are offering to join the fight against the force of nature. Volunteers from Belarus, Bulgaria and France are among more than 160,000 people now estimated to be battling the blazes. Daniel started his career in rural firefighting, and says that has prepared him well for tackling the type of blazes sweeping through Russia.

“I started my career in 1978, Surrey. A lot of domestic fires, but a lot of fires in rural areas, including forest and military ranges, and in terms of what’s going on in Russia, they mention the word ‘peat’ – we would spend many a week in hot summers dealing with the same type of fire,” he recalled. “The way that we would have dealt with it in those days was to dig fire breaks – dig a trench underneath the peat to stop the fire spreading underneath the ground.”

Even though Daniel retired two years ago, he says in his mind he is still on the frontline.

“The language of firefighters, no matter where you are in the world, a firefighter is the same – they’re there to help save lives. Full stop. That’s it,” Collier says. “All Russia has to do is to simply ask and then allow the people that care – the paramedics, the firefighters – to come in and do their jobs.”

Daniel Collier is packed and ready to go. The only thing stopping him flying to Russia is red tape. Collier says if Russia temporarily suspended the visa regime for emergency workers, he, and hundreds like him, would flood to Russia to quell he flames.

There are more stories of foreigners wanting to get involved in the fight against the fires in Russia. Scenes of Russian families in trouble have inspired American Colin Nelson to act.

“I learnt about the wildfires about two or three days ago and I decided that I was interested because I’ve been interested in Russia for a long time and this is a good opportunity to go and help people,” Nelson told RT. “It’s a way to represent American people and their interest in the world around… I think all people should volunteer to help others during trouble.”

Many countries have been experiencing record-high temperatures this year, which is unique for Earth according to American meteorologist Jeff Masters from the Weather Underground website.

He thinks there's little chance the same areas will see such heat waves again anytime soon.

“There have been 17 countries in the world that have set their all time maximum heat record this year, and a lot of them are surrounding Russia, for instance Finland, Ukraine and Belarus. But a lot of countries in the Middle East and Africa have also set their all time record high temperature. What you saw this year is an unusual phenomenon that’s not likely to be repeated,” he told RT.