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Emergencies Ministry units put on high alert over forest fires in Russia

April 21, 2012, 18:05 UTC+3

Regional units of the Russian Emergencies Ministry have been put on high alert in connection with forest fires

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MOSCOW, April 21 (Itar-Tass) —— Regional units of the Russian Emergencies Ministry have been put on high alert in connection with forest fires.

The order was issued by acting Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov. Forest fires are raging in the Khabarovsk and Primorye Territories, Amur region, Jewish Autonomous Region, Kamchatka Territory, Magadan and Sakhalin regions, and Yakutia.

On Friday, April 20, a fire that broke out at a sawmill in Tagda, Amur region, was spread by strong wind to nearby houses and buildings, destroying 46 dwelling houses and 18 buildings. One person died.

On Saturday morning the fire was reported to have been extinguished completely. Four hundred seventeen people and 101 pieces of machinery were used in the fire-fighting operation.

The main cause of forest fires in the Trans-Baikal Territory was said to be the burning of dry grass. Agricultural firms and farms have been forbidden to burn dry grass, but private households ignore the ban.

An emergency situation has been in effect in the region since March 26. Business activities, hunting and outings in forests are prohibited. Police patrols and posts have been set up on the roads leading to forests.

The Russian government will allocate 12 billion roubles for righting forest fires in 2012, a six-time increase from 2010.

More fire-fighting equipment will be used this year as well. “Five billion roubles will be allocated for the purchase of equipment in 2012.We will supply more than 2,000 pieces of equipment to regions before the start of the forest fire season,” First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said.

A great deal of attention will be paid to parachute units. “We have created the first such unit of 2,500 people this year. And we think that all these measures will allow us to fight fires effectively,” he said.

Licenses have already been issued to 70 percent of organisations engaged in fire-fighting and the remaining companies will obtain them by April 1, Federal Forestry Agency Head Viktor Maslyakov said earlier.

“Actually, this work started last year. We trained all specialists who are needed in regions. All regions will get the licenses by April 1,” Maslyakov said.

He noted that “all regions have submitted their applications, and 70 percent [of organisations] have already received the licenses”.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for raising public awareness about fire danger and checking the readiness of fire-fighting systems.

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