Fire in Chornobyl zone extinguished, experts estimating damage

Fire in Chornobyl zone extinguished, experts estimating damage

Ukrinform
Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant facilities, other critical infrastructure were not affected

A fire raged in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone from April 4 to April 14. As of April 16, the blaze was put out and the situation was taken under control. However, members of the fire fighting operations headquarters said it was too early to say the fire was completely extinguished. Although there is no open fire, the forest floor will be smoldering for at least a week and, amid unfavorable conditions, it may again turn into a flame.

HOW IT HAPPENED

According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, a fire on an area of 20 hectares was reported in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone on April 4. The fire broke out in the Kotovske forestry in the western part of the zone. Rescuers managed to curb the flames quite quickly, but the situation was complicated by new fires.

This fact suggested that the fire in the exclusion zone was not only the result of burning grass, but also the result of arson.

"According to the operations headquarters, there are several seats of the fire in the exclusion zone and the unconditional resettlement area, which are not interconnected geographically and temporally," the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management said.

The agency is known to have contacted the police with a request to establish the facts of possible arson and the actions that led to the fires. To date, law enforcement authorities have detained two suspects.

As early as April 9, the situation looked critical for outside observers: the fire reached the village of Chystohalivka in the Korohodske forestry, close to the Chornobyl NPP, which meant the fire was gradually approaching the spent fuel storage facility and the town of Prypiat. Social media also stated the danger for the popular tourist object - the town of Chornobyl-2 and the Duga over-the-horizon radar.

At the same time, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said there was no danger for the critical objects of the exclusion zone.

"In our time of total information noise, it is very simple to get lost in three pines, or rather 'in three fake news stories,' the purpose of which is to intensify the tension and sow confusion in our nervous society disoriented by the pandemic. So, friends, there's a big request for you - be critical of everything you read and of the fires in the exclusion zone. We can say the main thing - there are no threats to the nuclear power plant, the spent fuel storage facility and other critical objects in the exclusion zone," the service said.

Ukraine's Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko also added that all critical infrastructure is reinforced concrete structures that do not burn, and all trees around them were cut down for protection against forest fires.

On April 13, President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was aware of the fire in the exclusion zone, and the government allocated UAH 44.86 million from the reserve fund for firefighting. The next day, the open fire was finally extinguished.

At the same time, the work to eliminate the fire is ongoing.

"Seats of the fire have been contained. The work is ongoing to extinguish smoldering areas. Rescuers are now on duty where there were the strongest seats of the fire, where the blaze could spread over the roads, where there is smoldering," deputy chairman of the public council at the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management Maksym Virych told an Ukrinform correspondent.

CONSEQUENCES OF FIRE

While the work is still ongoing to eliminate the fire, it is not yet possible to calculate the damage. Some people even claim that it is difficult to do so because there were 1,566 fires in the exclusion zone between 1993 and 2018, and they destroyed tourist sites and forests in one way or another.

The State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management estimates losses at tens of millions of hryvnias.

Some people call the 2020 fire the largest in the exclusion zone - comparable to the 1992 fire. Others say that the area of the fire was not the largest, but this fire can be called the most unpredictable in all past years as new seats of the fire appeared too chaotically.

One thing is obvious: Chornobyl NPP facilities and other critical infrastructure were not affected. Residential buildings in the town of Chornobyl, where the station workers live, were not affected, too.

However, enormous damage has been done to the Chornobyl Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve.

"Our representatives yesterday started to come to the site and make a preliminary assessment," the head of the department of information and educational work of the reserve, Viktoriia Volodkina, told Ukrinform.

RADIATION BACKGROUND

Experts explain that in order to understand how the fire affected the environment, it is necessary not only to measure the level of gamma background, but also to sample air.

These measurements were constantly carried out in the exclusion zone, in Kyiv, and in the adjacent territories.

"In connection with the fires that continue in the territory of the exclusion zone, experts of the Chornobyl NPP's radiation safety unit are constantly monitoring the industrial site of the station. The monitoring results show that there is no excess of radiation control levels at Chornobyl NPP facilities," the NPP's press service said.

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate reported on the effects of the fire on the population: "Data from measurements of radiation characteristics indicate that the event had no significant radiological consequences for the population and the environment outside the exclusion zone and was not accompanied by the formation of additional emissions of radioactivity into the environment in the situation of existing radiation exposure."

Ukrinform also learned from Serhiy Kireyev, director general of the state-owned specialized enterprise Ecocentre, how the level of radiation exposure of rescuers is controlled. According to him, measurements of the content of cesium in the body began to be made from 10:00 on April 12. The measurements are carried out in the town of Chornobyl.

"These are the firefighters who come for the rotation. We have a special chair with a spectrometer. The person sits down, the operator makes measurements," Kireyev said.

He stressed that no excess doses of cesium were detected.

Lana Borovska


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