Firefighters battling rampant wildfires in Russia’s Tomsk Region in Siberia lack essential communication systems, equipment and heavy machinery, the region’s Deputy Governor Andrei Trubitsyn said on Tuesday.
“In terms of concrete problems, the most important thing is the lack of communication systems and the second is equipment,” Trubitsyn said. “We have to change the wage and motivation system and we have to improve the food rations…And we absolutely do not have enough heavy machinery,” he added.
Trubitsyn said an appeal to the Defense Ministry is being prepared, requesting the army to “donate heavy equipment to the forestry agencies.”
His complaints come two years after Russia suffered devastating wildfires in the midst of the most severe drought in recorded history. The authorities faced a wave of criticism following the country’s poor reaction to the crisis, which devastated swathes of the country and left Moscow wreathed in smoke for weeks. The fires affected 22 regions, killing more than 50, leaving 3,500 homeless and causing over $15 billion in damage.
As of Tuesday morning, 25 forest fires raged over 4,970 hectares in Tomsk region, of which 14 have been brought under control. There is no threat of the fires spreading to populated areas, but a state of emergency persists in the region.
Andrey Kachin, an instructor in the firefighting paratrooper squad at Tomsk’s Bakchar forest protection department, said there is a drastic difference between how federal reserve employees and the local troopers are equipped and supplied.
“[Federal Reserve commandos] have everything, they are dressed differently, their equipment is better. Unlike us, they have good boots and new tents. They probably eat just like we do, but they have drinking water supplies, while we drink water from the river,” Kachin said.
Another firefighter, Aleksandr Butsenko, told RIA Novosti the standard food rations are “laughable.”
“About 50 grams of sugar a day, 80 grams of condensed milk, 340 grams of corned beef per person…On the whole it’s enough, but we eat our own potatoes…We take water wherever it’s available – from a swamp, for example. There was a fire in the town of Krasniy Yar, and the nearest water was 17 kilometers away,” said Butsenko.
The equipment issued to firefighters is of poor quality, he said. “Our boots soak up water, protective gear gets worn to shreds and there aren’t enough inflatable mattresses to sleep on,” he said.
Russia’s Emergency Ministry has deployed Be-200 amphibious airplanes and converted Ilyushin Il-76 transport planes to help fight the fires.