Starting in early April, wildfires have been burning near the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl nuclear accident site. Knowingly, farmers started the fires to burn dry grass to prep the soil for the upcoming farming season. Burning the dry grass is a tradition in this region, so some residents started the fires to pay the annual homage. For a short time, the fires were contained. Recently, they flared up and are burning again due to strong winds. About 1,300 firefighters are working to contain the fires burning in three main areas. At this point, the fires have burned about 8,600 acres. Several abandoned villages are complete losses. Unfortunately, the smoke pollution is largely impacting Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv. The smoke consists of carbon emissions and aerosols. Residents of Kyiv are being advised to keep all windows closed.
Due to abnormally dry and windy conditions, fire conditions could become extreme. Ukraine experienced a mild winter with below average snowfall, contributing to drier than usual conditions. The fire is approaching the exclusion zone – the area with the highest levels of radiation at the former nuclear power plant. If the fire enters the exclusion zone, the incident could become much more catastrophic. Many of the structures in the area are contaminated by radiation. If these structures catch on fire, they could release radioactive particles. So far, officials have not reported an increase in radiation due to the fires. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine is actively monitoring the situation and radiation levels.
- As of: April 3-5, 2020
- Location: Near Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine
- Size: 8,600 acres
- Containment: Unknown
- Fire Behavior: Moderate fire spread through dry grasses with high winds
- Structures Destroyed: Multiple abandoned villages
- Structures Threatened: Structures consisting of radioactivity may soon be threatened as the fire approaches the exclusion zone
- News Articles: NASA, NBC, BBC, State Emergency Services, Daily Signal, 112 International