Firefighters work to contain forest fires near Chernobyl nuclear site

6 April 2020, 14:14

Ukraine Chernobyl Fire
Ukraine Chernobyl Fire. Picture: PA

The area was evacuated following the explosion in 1986.

Emergency teams in Ukraine are tackling a forest fire in the contaminated area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that has raised radiation fears.

Police said they have tracked down a person suspected of starting the blaze by setting dry grass on fire in the area.

The 27-year-old man said he burned grass “for fun” and then failed to extinguish the fire when the wind caused it to expand quickly, officers said.

Two blazes erupted on Saturday in the zone around Chernobyl that was sealed after the 1986 explosion at the plant.

Firefighters said they have managed to localise one of the fires in an area of about five hectares, but the second one continued burning, covering about 20 hectares.

They said they were using aircraft to extinguish the blaze.

Ukraine Chernobyl Fire
A Geiger counter shows an increased radiation level (Yaroslav Yemelianenko/AP)

Authorities said radiation levels in the area engulfed by fires substantially exceeded normal levels, but the emergencies service said radiation levels in the capital Kyiv, about 60 miles south, were within norms.

The 1,000-square-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was established after the April 1986 disaster at the plant that sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe.

The zone is largely unpopulated, although about 200 people have remained despite orders to leave.

A forest fire burning near the village of Volodymyrivka in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine
A forest fire near the village of Volodymyrivka in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (Emergency Situation Ministry via AP)

Blazes in the area have been a regular occurrence.

Some of them start when residents set dry grass on fire in the early spring – a widespread practice in Ukraine, Russia and some other ex-Soviet nations that often leads to devastating forest fires.

By Press Association

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