Radiation across the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone spiked 17x as firefighters over the weekend battled a 250-acre forest fire, reported NBC News.
More than 100 firefighters, several Antonov AN-32P Firekiller air tankers, and a Mil Mi-8 helicopter were dispatched near the village of Vladimirovka to fight the fire. Ukrainian emergency services said firefighters battled the blaze over the weekend and wrapped up operations by Monday.
VIDEO: A forest fire is underway in the restricted zone around Chernobyl, scene of the world's worst nuclear accident, but Ukrainian government agencies have denied an official's claim that the fire caused a spike in radiation levels pic.twitter.com/EOyG0XG4QD— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 7, 2020
"There is bad news - radiation is above normal in the center of the fire," ecological inspection chief Yegor Firsov wrote in a Facebook post alongside a video of a Geiger counter. "As you see on the video, the appliance indicators are 2,3 at ok 0,14. But such a situation is only in the fire."
Firsov said the spike in radioactivity was observed in the proximity of the fire. He wrote in a Sunday post that nuclear experts recorded no increase of radiation levels in the capital, Kyiv, about 60 miles from the exclusive zone.
Vladimirovka is part of a 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone, which was deserted in 1986 after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion, which exposed millions of people to radioactive materials across Europe. The region is the most radioactively contaminated area in the world.
We've noted in the past that "radioactive fallout has been blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) acknowledges only 56 deaths among firefighters who suffered and died agonizing deaths in the disaster's immediate aftermath."
Earlier this year, we showed how certain types of fungi are attracted to radiation. And the radioactive site of the abandoned Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant has seen an abundance of fungi growing on it over the years.
As for wildfires that are occasionally sparked in the exclusion zone, Firsov outlines the area lacks prevention measures to mitigate forest fires considering nature has taken over the region. He also blames "careless citizens" who venture into the area, sometimes setting fires.
"The problem of setting fires to grass by careless citizens in spring and autumn has long been a very acute problem for us," he wrote. "Every year we see the same picture -- fields, reeds, forests burn in all regions."
Firsov is currently calling for new laws that would impose harsher penalties for anyone starting fires in the exclusive zone.
"There are relevant draft bills. I hope they will be voted in. Otherwise, large-scale fires will continue to occur every autumn and spring," he wrote.