Siberia: Eight killed fighting wildfire

June 7, 2012 at 11:33 AM

KYZYL, Russia, June 7 (UPI) -- Eight Russian paratroopers died fighting a massive forest fire in southern Siberia, official reports said Thursday.

The approximately 1,235-acre forest fire tore through Tuva in southern Siberia. Fourteen paratroopers were dispatched from Tuva air base Wednesday to combat the fire, but were trapped by flames. Six managed to escape; however, the others were killed before help arrived, RIA Novosti reported.

Tuva declared a state of emergency June 5 in response to 14 fires spanning more than 11,200 acres. Four aircraft, 178 firefighters and 27 units worked to fight back the flames but hot dry weather and strong winds have hampered the effort.

As of Thursday, 132 forest fires raged throughout Russia, the worst of them concentrated far east and in Siberia. They are thought to be the result of thunderstorms, agricultural burning and accidents.

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