Chernobyl Forest Fires Now Burning Dangerously Close To Nuclear Reactor
Fires in Chernobyl have been ravaging parts of the exclusion zone for over a week, and now there are concerns the blaze is heading dangerously close to its nuclear reactor.
The news comes just a week after Ukrainian officials discovered a huge radiation spike in the area where the first fires began.
As the fires continue to spread, there are growing concerns that if it goes too close to the reactor, which exploded back in 1986, there could be radiation contamination.
Hundreds of firefighters have been working to try extinguish the fires which have been burning since April 5.
The fires had already engulfed 8,600 acres since the wildfires began and on Saturday, April 11, 400 firefighters, 100 fire engines and several helicopters had been deployed to the zone, The New York Times reports.
While the radiation levels spiked 16 times higher last week from the fires, it’s still much lower than the radiation given off by the initial explosion, but still poses a risk the the country’s residents.
Following the fires growing across the surrounding area of the exclusion zone, police have evacuated residents from the village of Poliske which is situated inside of the zone.
Despite the fact people are banned from living within 30 kilometres (18 miles) of the power station, Poliske is believed to be the home of 20 residents.
Weather forecasts have shown the wind has blowing plumes of the radioactive smoke towards Chernihiv region and the border with Belarus with growing concerns the smoke may make its way over to the country’s capital of Kiev just 60 miles away. Kiev is home to almost three million people.
Kateryna Pavlova, the acting head of the agency that oversees the area that’s currently burning, told The New York Times:
At the moment, we cannot say the fire is contained. We have been working all night digging firebreaks around the plant to protect it from fire.
Wind can raise hot particles in the air together with the ash and blow it toward populated areas.
We are lucky to have quarantine measures in place now as people stay at home, walk less and wear masks.
While wildfires around the Chernobyl region aren’t uncommon, the current blaze was reported to be arson by Ukrainian police. The man who started them has since been detained.
As concerns grow about the radioactive smoke spreading, Yegor Firsov, head of Ukraine’s state ecological inspection service, confirmed that radiation levels in Kiev were ‘within normal levels’ last week.
As of April 9, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine reported that background radiation levels continued to be within the normal range around the capital city.
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