14 Apr 2020 17:24

Forest fire in Chernobyl area put out - reports to President Zelensky

KYIV. April 14 (Interfax) - The Ukrainian State Emergency Service will take a few more days to put out smoldering embers following a forest fire in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP)'s Exclusion Zone and the area surrounding it, Emergency Service head Mykola Chechotkin told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at a daily teleconference on Tuesday.

Zelensky has received reports on the matter every day recently in order to keep the situation under control, the Ukrainian presidential press service said.

"Asked by the president when the fire in the Exclusion Zone will be stopped, Mykola Chechotkin replied that there is no fire anymore," the press service said.

Zelensky also received reports that gusty winds in the area complicated the situation after 4:00 p.m. on Monday, and the fire could hardly be kept under control. Therefore, the State Emergency Service deployed a great deal of hardware and personnel to the site. Rain that later fell onto the area helped the firefighters handle the situation more quickly.

"Firefighting aircraft performed 227 flights yesterday using 500 tonnes of water. Radiation levels within the Exclusion Zone are normal and haven't increased," Chechotkin said.

Along with fighting the fire within the Exclusion Zone, firefighters also prevented the blaze from reaching ammunition depots, the sarcophagus, the Vector facility, the Chernobyl NPP's power distribution station, and the radioactive waste storage site, he said.

The Ukrainian National Police said two arsonists were detained near two fire hotspots on Monday, and an investigation was opened. One Ukrainian citizen was suspected of setting fire to deadwood on an area of about seven hectares.

"I'm really glad that the Verkhovna Rada voted yesterday to increase the fines for arson and the destruction of forests. This is the authorities' quick and proper response to serious challenges. The previous fines of a few thousand hryvni were too mild a punishment for such serious crimes," Zelensky said.

Acting chief of the Ukrainian State Environmental Inspectorate Yehor Firsov said earlier that the fire in the Chernobyl NPP's Exclusion Zone had been extinguished and measurements of radiation levels showed that they were basically normal.

"Briefly speaking, the fire has been successfully extinguished, and the rain helped very much. The radiation level has been measured regularly, and the data that we have shows that it is basically normal," Firsov said on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon.

Emergency services have been fighting forest fires in the Chernobyl NPP's Exclusion Zone since April 4. The Ukrainian government said it has not recorded any changes in radiation levels, either at the NPP site, in the Exclusion Zone, or outside it.