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30 Aug, 2023 13:36

Wildfires break out near major Russian resort city (VIDEO)

The mayor of Gelendzhik says more than 400 people are involved in attempts to put out fires that have spread over 100 hectares

Authorities in the city of Gelendzhik in Russia’s Krasnodar Region have introduced the highest level of fire-hazard warning and are asking locals to help battle raging wildfires that have broken out near the popular Black Sea resort.

The fire initially started on Tuesday near the district of Kupriyanov Schel and covered an area of about 1.5 hectares. Despite firefighters being deployed and a Mi-8 helicopter dropping 5 tons of water on the blaze throughout the night, it continued to spread. 

The local administration has issued a message on its official Telegram channel asking all Gelendzhik residents who have experience fighting forest fires, and have equipment such as knapsacks and extinguishers, to help battle the flames. 

On Wednesday morning, Gelendzhik mayor Aleksey Bogodistov reported on Telegram that the wildfires had spread to 118 hectares and that over 80 vehicles and 441 people, including a number of local volunteers, were attempting to extinguish them. He also stated that two BE-200 amphibious aircraft and two MI-8 helicopters were operating at the scene. 

“Today, more than 120 tons of water have already been dropped by helicopters on the fires. Extinguishing continues in difficult conditions with strong winds with gusts of up to 30 meters per second and difficult terrain,” the regional department of the Emergencies Ministry reported. 

Efforts to extinguish the fires are being complicated by hot, dry weather and the fact that the flames are spreading up a steep mountain slope. However, officials claim that there is currently no threat to any settlements or economic facilities. 

Avialesookhrana, a state company responsible for monitoring wildfires in Russia, has suggested that the initial cause of the fire was human negligence and a violation of forest fire safety rules. The Emergencies Ministry press service also supported the theory that a human factor had played a role in the outbreak of the fire. 

“There was no threat, no abnormal heat. We have declared high fire hazard classes – the fourth and fifth, and introduced a special fire regime, we have dry hot weather, of course, a human factor is assumed,” an agency spokesperson said. 

The regional Ministry of Natural Resources has said it is too early to assess the environmental damage from the fires, but noted that its employees will start work at the scene as soon as the flames are put out. 

The head of Russia’s Federal Forestry Service has stated that emergency workers expect to localize and eliminate the fires by Wednesday evening.