According to international news reports, Russian officials declared a state of emergency in southern and eastern parts of the country in mid-April 2008 due to numerous out-of-control fires sweeping across several regions. This image shows one of the regions that was ablaze: the Amur Oblast’ in Russia’s Far East. On April 15, 2008, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of dozens of active fires (locations outlined in red) and clouds of thick smoke over the area. Dark brown burn scars sprawl across the tan landscape.
Although this area is not densely populated, there are numerous small towns clustered along the banks of the area’s many rivers. Two major railways also pass through the area. The Trans-Siberia Railroad makes a noticeable fire break northwest of the town of Svobodnyy. A second railroad, the Baikal-Amur Mainline also passes through the area, though it is not as noticeable. The Baikal-Amur is roughly parallel to but northeast of the Trans-Siberian Railroad; in this image, it connects the Zeyskoye Reservoir to the town of Fevral’sk.
The landscape in Amur Oblast’ is largely a mosaic of agricultural land and mixed forests, though grassland (steppes) and boreal (evergreen) forests are also present. Early spring is not the season when most natural fires occur in the area; the peak of the natural fire season is generally later in the summer. However, spring is the season for people to clear and clean up agricultural land for the upcoming growing season, and many people use fire for that purpose. Accidental fires often escape control and burn into surrounding forests and other natural areas. It isn’t possible to tell from satellite whether a particular fire is intentional or accidental, but it is likely that some of the larger fires in this scene are out-of-control wildfires.