Satellite view of smoke and fires near Lake Baikal, Russia, 8 August 2015. Photo: NASA Terra/MODIS

10 August 2015 (The Siberian Times) – Summer wildfires ignited in areas close to Lake Baikal, the vast Siberian lake, at the height of the vacation season, causing breathing problems in some areas. Campers reported their tents and cars caked in ashes from the huge fires.

Some 45 people were evacuated from the Baikal shore on Monday, and there are fears of dangers to people from bears fleeing the smoke towards the lake shore. 

One man called Alexander reported: 'When we swam in Baikal on Saturday, we were all covered in ashes. Ash was floating in the water and on the water. In the morning we woke up, all the cars and tents were covered with ash too.'

On 27 July 2015, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite acquired this view of smoke from fires burning near the shoreline of Lake Baikal in southern Russia. Actively burning areas, detected by the thermal bands on MODIS, are outlined in red. Lake Baikal—the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world—has seen water levels drop in recent months, according to news reports. As a result, drying peat reserves around the lake could lead to more summertime wildfires. Photo: Jeff Schmaltz / LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response

An anonymous local girl told Instagram:  'Today we were on Lake Baikal in Gremyachinsk. The sky is black from smoke, ash in the air. Scary. Firefighters run around - they probably need equipment and aircrafts, but they are not visible, and there  are a lot of heat sources along the road. I have never witnessed such a scene … very scary.'

A tourist from Sarminsk Gorge wrote:  'Like in movies about the Apocalypse … Some stones but no vegetation, all up in smoke. Burning forests of the Baikal region. We walked 7 km in one direction in thick smoke.'

Satellite view of smoke and fires in eastern Russia, 10 August 2015. Photo: NASA Terra/MODIS

Firebreak strips - to prevent the spread of flames - were rendered useless in strong winds.

A cyclist said: 'On Syatoy Nos peninsula, forests are burning. Now we are 10 kilometres away from the fire. We can see both fire and smoke. Tomorrow the peninsula will be closed to visitors because of the disaster. Water is full of ash, after bathing it covers the body. The situation is terrible! They say that the bears went down (towards the lake shore)  because of the fire.' […]

Badly hit is Barguzinsky district the Republic of Buryatia, where no rain has fallen for the entire summer. 

The deputy head of the district, Yelena Leontyeva, said: 'Besides fires, we have an emergency drought. It is very difficult. Smoke hangs throughout the Republic [Buryatia]. Visibility is small, about 120 metres. Now the wind is up, maybe there is 300 metres visibility.'

Smoke from forest fires rises over Lake Baikal, Siberia, on 10 August 2015. Photo: Sasha Chernykh / The Siberian Times

Pollution readings from smoke fumes have been taken, and analysis is underway. 

'This morning the area [of fires] was 21,900 thousand hectares, including Trans-Baikal National Park. Almost 200 people are fighting the fire, local residents are involved too and about 20 tractors and bulldozers.'

Ulan-Ude, capital of Buryatia, was also under a pall of smoke. 

In Irkutsk region, which also borders the lake, acting head of the regional forestry agency, Sergei Tarasyuk, said: 'The area of fires has increased significantly over Saturday and Sunday, as there was heat of up to 38C and windy weather. This led to the crown fires, which covered more than 17,000 hectares.' […]

The sun appears pink as smoke rises from forest fires around Lake Baikal, Siberia, on 10 August 2015. Photo: Vladimir Borovikov / The Siberian Times

On 23 July, local governor Konstantin Ilkovsky announced an emergency situation regime in the region because of dry weather causing wildfires. The area of forest fires in Siberian Federal District has grown by 3.3 times over the last 24 hours to 108,300 hectares, the district's forestry department said on Monday.

'A total of 146 forest fires are blazing on the area of 108,300 hectares on the territory of the Siberian Federal District,' said the forestry department. [more]

World's deepest lake shrouded in smoke, swimmers covered in ash

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