Forest Fire flames near Chernobyl are living polluted particles into the air that had remained in the soil. Researchers have revealed that radiation levels near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster site have soared as firefighters struggle to contain two wildfires in the area.
According to recent reports, a massive fire spread about 20 hectares near the village of Vladimirovka, within the uninhabited exclusion zone of Chernobyl on Saturday (April 4), and the emergency services were still fighting two fires on Monday, April 6.
“There is bad news — radiation is above normal in the center of the fire,” Yegor Firsov, the head of Ukraine’s ecological inspection service, posted on Facebook on Sunday with a video showing the spiking levels on a Geiger counter. “As you can see in the video, the readings of the device are 2.3, [when the norm] is 0.14.
But this is only within the area of the fire. Firsov continued: “You don’t have to be afraid of opening your windows and airing out your home during the quarantine.”
His measurements refer to the microsievert hourly reading (μSv / h). The maximum allowable amount of natural background radiation is 0.5 μSv / h, emergency services said, but the amount Firsov reported was almost five times higher which is extremely worrying.
According to reports, a total of 124 firefighters, two An-32P planes, and a Mi-8 helicopter are fighting the flames covering approximately 20 hectares and have conducted several flyovers above the affected area. Fourteen other firefighters were fighting a minor fire of about 4.9 hectares, emergency services said.
The increase in radiation levels does not appear to extend to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, or to the city of Chernobyl, where authorities say radiation levels remain normal. Kyiv is located around one hundred kilometers from where the fires have broken out.
Vladimirovka lies within the 1,000-square-mile deserted exclusion zone, which was evacuated after the devastating 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which caused radioactive fallout across Europe and exposed millions of people to hazardous radiation levels.
Since the Chernobyl disaster, the region surrounding the nuclear reactor was retaken by nature and forest fires are not that uncommon, experts have reported. Although many forest fires appear “naturally” many people have been caught lighting the dry spoil on purpose, causing many intentional fires to break loose.
“The problem of setting fire to grass by careless citizens in the spring and autumn has been a very acute problem for us,” wrote Firsov. “Every year we see the same image: fields, reeds, forests burn in all regions.” He called for new legislation to be enacted to impose more severe penalties on anyone who is caught setting fire in the area. “There are relevant bills. I hope they are voted. Otherwise, large-scale fires will continue to occur every fall and spring ” Firsov explained.
Currently, setting fire to grass during the spring and autumn seasons is a violation that only prompts a $6 penalty.
The zone surrounding Chernobyl is largely unpopulated although around 200 people have remained there.