Author`s name Michael Simpson

Clairvoyants Extinguish Forest Fires

Forest fires in Russia's Baikal region are getting more threatening. Clairvoyants are asked for help with fire extinguishing
When approaching the Russian city of Ulan-Ude, we saw one more forest fire just 100 meters from the highway. My daughter demanded that we must stop and extinguish it. We had no spade which could be very useful for the procedure. The girl said we would be able to trample the fire down. The darkness produced an illusion that the fire wasn’t as extensive as it was in fact, it seemed that it was even closer to us and would cause no harm.

When we got back home to Irkutsk after the May vacation, I had to admit that my daughter was partially right. Along a 450-kilometer sector of the highway going from Ulan-Ude to Irkutsk, we saw many forest fires here or there; unfortunately, the local population made no attempts to extinguish the fire. There were just two boys near one of the villages who attempted to tramp the fire down; it is unlikely that they could be a success, as the disaster was rather extensive. Other people behaved as if nothing extraordinary occurred at all: road police officers did their routine job of controlling the traffic; women selling products on the roadsides still complained the sale was poor, and so on. In a word, all of them were plunged into their everyday business which they considered to be more important than the devastating forest fires.

As if being perfectly aware of people's indifference, the fires grew more angry and advanced to the territories which they had never touched before. Forrest territories hit with the fire have increased several times. The strong wind that blew in the regions on both sides of the Baikal Lake made the forest fires even more devastating. 

When the wind once dropped in the evening, fire brigades had a sigh of relief. But the whole of the city of Irkutsk was enveloped with smoke next morning, as forest fires had surrounded the regional center on all sides. The extension of the fire was so great that even whole settlements and villages could be burnt down, the same way as village Borovoy had been lost last summer. As for the forest fires in the Irkutsk region, there was only one good piece of news about the whole of the incident. When information obtained with the satellite said that forest fires were threatening village Topka, an operational group left for the place immediately. The people were surprised that the alarm was false and felt very happy.

Measures taken by authorities of the region for improving the fire situation are not quite adequate. A bit more than 100 people have been mobilized for fire extinguishing operations in the Irkutsk region; the strength of such brigades in the republic of Buryatia is even less. It may sound strange, but there are people who say they are ready to do away with any fire for money. They are clairvoyants. These people, who say they are having extrasensory abilities, contact with editorial offices of local newspapers and say they are ready to carry out the mission if they are paid about 8,000 rubles (less than $300). 

Why are ordinary people so indifferent to the problem of forest fires? It is quite clear that forests are no longer treated as the common property, as it used to be in the Soviet era. It sometimes happens nowadays that people disforest vast territories without official permissions, illegally and then set fire to what remains after the illegal cutting. Do you think that villagers will risk their lives if they know that the fires were set especially to cover the criminal deeds?

It is not ruled out that the problem of fire extinguishing is closely connected with money. Probably, if people were paid for participation in brigades fighting the fires, they would be more effective. As Deputy Director of the administration in Cheremkhovsky district Galina Vasilyeva says, the sum appropriated for fighting the forest fires in the region makes up 30,000 rubles. The sum is obviously not enough.

In this sad situation, people are joking: they say let's call clairvoyants, pay them and ask to help if other methods prove ineffective in fighting the disaster.

Vladimir Medvedev
Tribuna

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