Hundreds of wildfires are torching huge swaths of Siberia after an unusually hot and dry summer left forests primed to burn. The blazes, likely ignited by lightning and strengthened by strong winds, have already burned more than 320,000 square kilometres, an area as large as Belgium, with the vast majority in areas that are hard to reach and where potential damage is likely to be less than the cost of fighting them.

States of emergency have been declared in the regions of Irkutsk, Buryatia, Sakha and Krasnoyarsk.
Although the fires have not hit populated areas, heavy smoke from them is affecting about 800 communities, officials said, including the large cities of Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk and Chita.
About 1,000 residents of the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk on Thursday called for the resignation of the region’s United Russia governor Alexander Uss, who at a youth forum last month called fighting the fires “economically unprofitable.” 
With wildfires raging across Siberia and Russia’s Far East, about 1,000 residents of the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk on Thursday called for the resignation of the region’s governor, who said at the start of the crisis it wasn’t economically profitable to fight the blazes.

Wildfires have swept across a swath of Russia the size of Belgium. Greenpeace Russia has called them an “ecological catastrophe,” while Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said the forest fires had spread because of “insufficient measures to extinguish fires.” For the environmentalists, the biggest concern is that the soot from the fires can deposit on Arctic ice and speed up its melt rate. That in turn can cause major disruption to local ecosystems. And if that ice is on land, it can run into the ocean and contribute to sea level rise.
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