Wildfires endanger villages, fuel site, in Russia’s Siberia

MOSCOW (AP) — Wildfires in Russia’s vast Siberia region endangered several villages Saturday and prompted authorities to evacuate residents of some areas.

In northeastern Siberia, 93 active forest fires burned across 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres) of Sakha-Yakutia, officials said, making it the worst affected region of Russia.

A fire engulfed dozens of houses in the village of Byas-Kuel, and all village residents were evacuated, according to the local task force dealing with the emergency.

Fires also burned close to the villages of Kytyl-Dyura, Sinsk, Yedyai and several other settlements. High winds exacerbated the danger of flames spreading quickly.

In the village of Sangary, emergency teams were taking urgent steps to protect a threatened fuel supply facility.

In recent years, Russia has recorded high temperatures that many scientists regard as a result of climate change. The hot weather coupled with the neglect of fire safety rules has caused a growing number of fires.

Experts also blame the worsening situation with fires on a 2007 decision to disband a federal aviation network tasked to spot and combat fires and turn its assets to regional authorities. The much-criticized move led to the force’s rapid decline.

The forests that cover huge areas of Russia make spotting new fires a challenge.