Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Workers battle forest fires in Siberia

Workers battle a forest fire in the vicinity of the Vyngapur-Surgut-Tyumen-Chelyabinsk Gas Pipeline in West Siberia on May 11, 2021. (Photo: Maxim Slutsky/TASS via Getty Images)

Siberia Faces 'Airpocalypse' as Unprecedented Wildfires Engulf Region in Toxic Smoke

"Wildfires in Siberia have now burned through 3.7 million acres of land, destroying vast swaths of forest. We are in a climate emergency."

Jake Johnson

A monitoring service warned Wednesday that the Siberian city of Yakutsk is experiencing an "airpocalypse" as devastating wildfires engulf the typically frigid—but, thanks to the climate crisis, increasingly warm—region in toxic smoke.

Throughout late Wednesday afternoon and early evening local time, according to Plume Labs, air quality in Yakutsk ranged from "dire" to "extreme" to "airpocalypse," categories that indicate dangerous levels of pollutants in the atmosphere. Earlier this week, Yakutsk was forced to suspend flights at its airport due to poor visibility.

"High levels of particulate matter and possibly also chemicals including ozone, benzene, and hydrogen cyanide are thought likely to make this one of the world's worst ever air pollution events," The Guardian reported, referring to the fires that have scorched 3.7 million acres of land in northeastern Siberia in recent days.

Alexey Yaroshenko, head of the forest department at Greenpeace Russia, told the U.K.-based newspaper that "for many years, propaganda has made people think that the climate crisis is a fiction, and if not fiction, that it will only benefit Russia, since it will become warmer and more comfortable."

"Now the situation is starting to change," said Yaroshenko. "Little by little, people are beginning to understand that the climate is really changing, and the consequences are really catastrophic. But the majority of society and the majority of politicians are still very far from understanding the real scale of the problem."

Aysen Nikolayev, governor of Siberia's Yakutia region, told reporters over the weekend that "the situation with wildfires in our republic is very difficult."

"We are experiencing the driest summer in the past 150 years in Yakutia, and the month of June was the hottest on record," said Nikolayev. "This, together with the dry thunderstorms that occur nearly daily in our republic, brought about significant wildfires."

Speaking to the Associated Press, one local resident said that "we can't see each other because of the smoke, our eyes are burning, and overall the smoke is very dangerous for the health of us villagers."

"We see on television planes that are dropping water on the burning forest but they aren't sending these planes to help us for some reason," he added. "Why is there no help?"

The latest wildfires mark the third consecutive year that Siberia has been ravaged by historic blazes, which scientists have attributed to dramatic warming fueled by the human-caused climate crisis.

"Last year, the record-setting fires in the remote Siberian region of Yakutia released roughly as much carbon dioxide as did all the fuel consumption in Mexico in 2018," the New York Times reported late last week. "On some days this month, thick smoke hung over the capital, Yakutsk, the coldest city in the world, making residents' eyes water and scraping their throats. Outside the city, villagers are consumed by the battle with fire, shoveling trenches to keep it away from their homes and fields, quenching their thirst by digging up the ice sheets embedded in the ground."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

160 Patient Advocates Demand Medicare Negotiation in Build Back Better Package

"We're confident that inclusion of comprehensive drug pricing reforms in the reconciliation package will lower prices, save lives, and ensure continued development of innovative new drugs."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Cartoonish Level Corrupt': As Dems Fight for Bold Agenda, Sinema to Fundraise With Its Corporate Opponents

"Sinema is setting her political future on fire," said one Democratic organizer. "If she doesn't change course drastically and soon, it will be too late."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Momentous Win': Years of Local Opposition Defeats PennEast Pipeline

Opponents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey cheer "cancellation of this unneeded, dangerous fracked gas pipeline."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amid Calls for Closure, House Dems Urge NYC Officials to End 'Inhumane Conditions' at Rikers

A dozen prisoners have died this year alone at the notoriously violent and overcrowded jail complex.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Quite Literally What Instigated the Tunisian Revolution': Outrage After NYC Food Vendor's Stall 'Trashed'

"The abuse of street vendors will continue until there is legislative change, creating a pathway for New York City's smallest businesses to formalize."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo