The President instructed the Emergencies Minister to draft the programme and stressed that separate funds should be reserved for the new facilities, special vehicles and aircraft.
The Minister briefed Dmitry Medvedev on the current fire situation. Mr Shoigu reported that special Emergency Ministry teams were sent to the regions where a state of emergency was declared by the President’s executive order to oversee restricted access to forests and address social issues at the evacuees’ temporary accommodation. The federal operational headquarters continues to operate in Moscow, which monitors the situation in all regions. Aircraft proposed by Ukraine and Azerbaijan will also be used to put out forest fires in Russia. The total number of aircraft involved in fire fighting operations will be 60.
Before the meeting, Dmitry Medvedev visited a fire station built in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Imereti Valley, in the immediate vicinity of the sports facilities currently under construction. The President was shown new fire engines whose design is based on the KAMAZ truck, and visited a training room and a community room. Two more fire stations will operate in the same area to ensure the safety of the Olympic facilities.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Shoigu, yesterday I signed a decree declaring a state of emergency in several Russian regions in accordance with the relevant law on such situations. Naturally, the current problems are not restricted to those regions but the wildfire situation there is extremely difficult. What is happening today? What has been done? What other problems are there?
Minister of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief Sergei Shoigu: At present, the federal operational headquarters has started working. We monitor almost all the affected territories from the National Crisis Management Centre. To follow-up on your executive order, in the past 24 hours we have prepared an order to establish working groups in the regions listed in the executive order. This morning, these working groups were sent to those regions, in addition to the personnel and the staffs already working there. We need more people on the ground due to the special forest access regime, as well as because we have new Interior Ministry personnel joining the operation and because we need to keep control over social issues and provide life support at temporary accommodation facilities. This work is now being organised.
If we look at the situation in the whole country, as I have already briefed you, the number of wildfires doubled in some regions over the weekend, and in some regions it even quadrupled.
Dmitry Medvedev: Those fires are a result of human activity.
Sergei Shoigu: Yes, we get these increases at weekends. It takes us two to three days to get the situation more or less under control.
In the past 24 hours, we have successfully secured 360 localities where the fire came very close. We had crown fire in three places and in all three cases we managed to stop it from spreading.
Dmitry Medvedev: We saw the tragic consequences of this in the Nizhny Novgorod Region.
Sergei Shoigu: Yes, and by the way, the same thing happened there yesterday. We had to evacuate the entire town of Vilya, almost 2,500 people. But we managed to contain the fire and not a single house was damaged.
The situation in Sarov [a town in the Nizhny Novgorod Region where the Federal Nuclear Centre is located] was also quite complicated; we had a large number of personnel there all night. There are over 1,000 people there at present. We have enough equipment, and we have been using aircraft very actively. Unfortunately, the aircraft are still completely dependent on instructions from the ground because visibility is extremely poor. We hope that by the end of today the situation will return back to the level of the day before yesterday.
We are managing the situation, but of course with the proviso that in some places it gets out of our control, and we have to transfer forces there very quickly. For this purpose we have created a reserve both of aviation and ground equipment. The Ministry of Defence is actively engaged.
And speaking of Sarov, we have enrolled another 500 people from the division of Interior Ministry troops that is stationed there.
Overall, we have 155,000 people and more than 20,000 items of equipment involved in fighting wildfires around the country. Of the 155,000 people, 124,000 are Emergency Ministry personnel and, naturally, we have recruited the local population.
What are some of the most acute problems at present? We have 164,000 residential summer communities and horticultural societies around the country. Typically, as you will recall, they were created in the Soviet times by various enterprises; that is, for example, a plant obtained land for development, connected electricity, water, built access roads, and other infrastructure, including fire ponds where they got their water. Those companies are long gone but the communities are still there. And I would like to ask you to issue an instruction to the Justice Ministry, our Ministry, and the Prosecutor's Office to have a look at which law we can use to improve this situation. Because we have this huge number of residential communities where people live and work during the summer, and we must find some ways to enforce fire safety regulations.
Dmitry Medvedev: In fact, such a large number of summer residential communities represents not only an opportunity for our people, but also the problems associated with creating normal conditions, including fire safety.
Unfortunately, nobody has been doing anything about this for many years precisely because they are autonomous public associations, and usually such issues are their own responsibility. But this does not mean that it is impossible to enforce the law. So I will certainly issue such instructions to encourage the communities to pay attention to it. As the events of this summer have shown, such omissions can sometimes have tragic consequences.
Therefore, it is essential for major gardening and horticultural associations to have fire-fighting reserve ponds and basic fire-fighting equipment, as well as other capabilities. We will need to address this. Therefore, I will issue the instructions and would like to ask you, in turn, to think about creating a separate programme on supplying our fire services with new material and technical facilities and new vehicles. Not only planes, which you have mentioned yourself earlier, because planes are large vehicles that are only used in serious fires, but many fires can be contained with smaller equipment. But most of the equipment is outdated.
This meeting is taking place at a new fire station. It is part of the Olympics preparation drive. But not all our fire stations are like this. So our first task is to create as many such units, such new facilities, as possible, while at the same time we should reorganise those that already exist if it is impossible to re-equip or rebuild them straight away. This will cost money, but we must allocate funds specifically for this purpose given the turn of events this summer and considering that we do not know what will happen next summer or a year later, as the climate is changing. It's good that funds have been allocated this year, and those are major funds, 5 billion [rubles] to compensate for the loss of property, but it would be much better to try to prevent such losses.
Of course, fire-fighting is a very hard job; nature is nature and we must realise that all the fire safety regulations in the world cannot guarantee that such events as we are seeing now will not occur. But at the same time, modern fire-fighting technology and equipment must be employed, so I suggest that you draft relevant proposals for the programme.
Now, returning to the current situation. I have received phone calls from our colleagues who had spoken to you and officials from other related ministries. What offers do you have and what do you plan to do? Because, of course, we are very grateful to our colleagues who shared their ideas with us, who empathise with us on those issues and are willing to provide their fire-fighting equipment and vehicles to us.
Sergei Shoigu: Mr President, about the programme. We will certainly draft it and I believe that after all these events, after reassessing this experience, it can become a major addition to the existing fire safety programmes in Russia.
As for proposals from our colleagues, we have received an offer from Ukraine to supply two AN-32 aircraft, which is not amphibious; it is refuelled from the ground. Another offer came from Azerbaijan: two helicopters, equipped with spray tank devices, which they bought two years ago from Russia. In addition, there are proposals from other countries, but we have decided to accept these two. I would like to ask for your permission to transport them across the border and get customs clearance so that we can include them in our response plan.
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course, I will authorise this.
Sergei Shoigu: We already have 56 aircraft and now we will get four more. Thus, the total number will be 60 aircraft equipped with fire-fighting systems.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good. And, of course, we appreciate our partners’ offers of help, which will be invaluable in these circumstances.
Now, going back to the situation that has arisen, I would like to note that we should focus our future efforts on defence and security facilities. You have mentioned the situation in Sarov. Fortunately, you have managed to prevent a disaster there. It is vital to closely monitor this, because these are high-risk facilities and it is absolutely unacceptable to have wildfires burning in their vicinity. I will hold a meeting on this issue tomorrow, with the participation of all the agencies that use such facilities and members of the Security Council.