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Forest fires burning in Russia

BRATSK, Russia, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Nine wildfires have covered about 264 acres of forest in the Irkutsk Region in East Siberia, the Russian forestry service said Sunday.

Twenty people are in custody on suspicion of deliberately starting the fires, RIA Novosti reported.

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More than 161 firefighters are battling the blazes, which have caused a higher-than-normal concentration of harmful substances in the air in the nearby city of Bratsk.

Fires closest to Bratsk were extinguished by Sunday, although residents in the area were forced to filter out smoke by wearing surgical masks soaked in water, officials said.

Acting head of Bratsk, Alexander Tuikov, resigned after President Dmitry Medvedev said he was dissatisfied with local authorities' handling of the situation, Radio Free Europe reported.

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