MOSCOW ( Associated Press) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called on authorities to take more steps to prevent wildfires and better coordinate to fight them.
In a video conference with regional and federal officials, Putin recalled that last year’s fires were the worst in several years, and asked governors to report on measures they have taken to strengthen the country’s fire defenses.
He pointed out that several fires are already burning in different areas.
“We cannot allow a repeat of last year’s situation,” Putin said. “We have to fight fires in a more effective, systematic and consistent way.”
The president highlighted the importance of forests in combating global warming, declaring that “large-scale forest fires undermine our climate protection efforts.”
“This is an issue of paramount importance for our country and for the entire world,” said the president.
In recent years, Russia has suffered soaring temperatures that scientists say are due to climate change. Those temperatures, coupled with a lack of respect for safety regulations, have caused fires that authorities say consumed more than 17 million hectares (42 million acres) last year.
Russian experts have denounced a 2007 decision that dismantled a federal aviation network in charge of fighting the fires and handing over its assets to regional authorities. The decision led to the accelerated deterioration of that network.
The government later backtracked and reinstated the federal agency. However, their resources remain limited, making it extremely difficult to monitor fires in Siberia and the Far East.
Authorities responded to last year’s fires by beefing up resources and rapid response units. The Kremlin has ordered more funds to fight the flames.