The Aftermath of the Chernobyl fire

  • 13/06/2020
  • Helga

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a place where there has always been more space than people, and where the land and wildlife are cherished. April 4 - the day when the largest wildfire in the history of the Zone began. It lasted almost a month, destroying everything in its path. In the beginning, could we have guessed what it would have turned into? Definitely not.

Wildfires are not a new phenomenon to the Chernobyl Zone ecosystem. Some last several days, others almost a week, but none of them were as  terrible and dangerous as the ones we experienced this year.

We can list many causes of flame development - from climate change to attempted arson or careless handling of fire.

With temperatures warming due to climate change, Ukrainian weather became  much hotter than in previous decades.

Winter 2019-2020 was warm and dry without snow or rainfall for months at a time, which lead to the drying out of vegetation.

A good way to assess how bad the fire was, is the scorch marks on the trees.

To sum it up so far - a hot summer, a warm dry winter, and dry vegetation - gave the perfect combination to create the apocalyptic wildfires that swallowed Chernobyl.

Burned tree near the entrance into Chernobyl town.

Police in the Kiev region caught a citizen suspected of setting fire to the forest in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. It turned out to be  a 27-year-old resident of the village of Ragovka. According to him, he committed the crime for fun - scorching grass and garbage in three places.

The second suspect is a 37-year-old resident, who had burned trash. The man is liable to a fine or restriction of liberty for a term of two to five years or imprisonment for the same term.

Ukrainian police have reported that the cause of the Chernobyl Zone’s biggest 2020 wildfire is still officially under investigation. 

All that remains for us now is to reap the benefits.Chernobyl nature is recovering after the wildfire. There is green grass, but the body of the trees are black and the leaves are yellow like in Autumn.

When we came to the Zone and looked around, we felt an ambivalent feeling - bittersweetness. On the one side we saw black dead trees, and on the other - green, fresh grass and life.

We were confused as to how fast nature was able to recover from the devastating fires.

“According to preliminary estimates, 11.5 thousand hectares of the south-western part of the reserve were affected, which is about 5% of the reserve's territory. Approximately 35% of them are forests, 55% are lea lands, and 10% are wetlands”, - said Oleksandr Halushchenko, director of the Chernobyl Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve.

Far from seeing an ecosystem collapse, we could see an ecosystem change. And that change may or may not be desirable from a human point of view.

The first stage of the restoration of the natural environment after a fire is the growth of grass cover. As experts predicted, it recovered in a month.

“Hollow path” on the way to the Duga Radar.

Before the April Сhernobyl Wildfire this path was blessed with greenery and life. Outside, the scorch marks now reach the tops of the trees. The ground below is littered with fallen logs and dead leaves. It seems like a desert with black trees - a “Hollow path”.

But it was only the beginning. Today, on the ground is also visible green grass like a response to damage from the fire and proof that the vegetation isn't actually dead. All we need is time. The better the day, the better the deed.

Once, Dominik Orfanus, the founder of ChernobylWelcome, told me - “Chernobyl is a place of hope”.

 I see it now - hope.