Farmers in the steppe of southern Siberia have an old tradition of burning dried grass in the spring to fertilize the soil for the coming year. In April 2015, unusually warm temperatures and strong winds turned the tradition into a nightmare. Several fires escaped the control of their handlers and spread rapidly across the dry landscape. According to media reports, escaped fires had devastated several villages, caused the deaths of about two dozen people, and left thousands of people homeless. Several smoky fires burned in Zabaikalsky Territory on April 14, 2015, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image. The fires are outlined in red. Several dark burn scars are visible through the smoke.
- RT (2015, April 12) 15 dead as grassland fires destroy about 1,000 houses in Siberia. Accessed April 15, 2015.
- The Siberian Times (2015, April 15) Frantic battle to stop wildfires engulfing suburbs Chita city. Accessed April 15, 2015.
- Washington Post (2015, April 15) An old-country Russian tradition has sparked wildfires across Siberia. Accessed April 15, 2015.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Adam Voiland.