Russian crews still battling wildfires

July 29, 2011 at 7:18 AM

MOSCOW, July 29 (UPI) -- Firefighters put out eight wildfires in the Russian Far East but still dealt with numerous other fires in the region, officials said.

"Forty one forest fires covering an area of 1,334 hectares [about 3,300 acres] were registered in the Far East over the past 24 hours," a representative of the Russian Emergencies Ministry told RIA Novosti Friday.

Vladimir Stepanov, head of the national crisis management center of the ministry, told ITAR-Tass crews were gaining the upper hand in the fires.

"The number of wildfires and their overall area has been reduced considerably in the past 24 hours," Stepanov said Friday.

Stepanov said fire crews faced a difficult firefighting situation in the Siberian republic of Yakutia in the Far East Khabarovsk territory and in the Arkhangelsk region.

"The strength of firefighting personnel is being increased. Emergencies Ministry's aircraft will bring 600 more men to fight wildfires in the Arkhangelsk region," Stepanov said.

"In total, the personnel involved in firefighting operations there will be increased by 1,000 to stabilize the situation in that region, which leads in terms of the number of wildfires and their area," Stepanov said.

Stepanov said one person died in a firefighting operation in Russia's southern Rostov region.

Last year, wildfires during a Russian heat wave killed 62 people and left thousands homeless.

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