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9 Aug, 2010 06:32

Activists struggle to rescue animals from wildfires

As flames continue to destroy forests across Russia, animal activists are desperately trying to save some of the creatures affected.

Fighting the flames is a race against time. Everyone at the “Bim” animal shelter in the Moscow region who can help is doing everything possible to keep the fire from claiming nearly a thousand different animals living there.

Just a couple of days ago it seemed like all was lost for the shelter, when the forest fires were as close as 150 meters in the forest surrounding the shelter.

The advancing flames were only stopped when a ditch was quickly dug up by a tractor and the workers, armed with buckets, shovels and fire hoses, successfully held ground.

Their efforts pushed the flames back by a kilometer, but the danger of a reoccurrence still remains.

Right now, the fire is coming from that direction,” head of the shelter Sergey Serdyuk says pointing to the woods. “We put out the ground fire, but the tree tops are burning, too. It’s so hot our shoes are melting.”

For almost a week employees from the animal shelter have fought the flames around the clock.

We have thirty workers and most of them are here. Just a few are taking care of the animals,” said veterinarian Andrey Lebedev. “Evacuating around 1000 animals is extremely difficult, almost impossible. And you cannot do it quickly – special equipment is needed for some – like the bears.”

Thus, they have had little other choice than to fight nature's full fury themselves, but with little help from the authorities.

When we tried calling the firemen they told us their fire trucks are busy, and we have to extinguish the fire ourselves,” Serdyuk said.

Lacking equipment and manpower, the firemen say there is only so much they can do.

We are working double shifts, additional shifts. People should not be insulted,” explained Vyacheslav Pankratov, head of the local fire station. “I have two fire trucks and provide help where it is needed. There is no threat now for the villages, animal shelter, or anyone else. The fires are under control.”