Heroes who defended Khandyga. Report from the village that almost burned down

Forest Fires
People in Khandyga are still animatedly discussing what happened, even after a few days: as on June 8, residents of Lesnaya and Arkticheskaia Streets moved all things closer to the center - it was these houses that were threatened by fire in the first place; as ashes rained down from the sky and there was nothing to breathe; as nothing could be seen at a distance of a meter and only a megaphone was heard, which reported mobilization and evacuation - "there was a real apocalypse," they say. The women filled all the containers with water. There was a huge queue at the gas stations, filling the tanks. "I really don't understand for what purposes, people came in an endless stream to refuel their cars. There was a slight panic after the emergency was announced. I also went with everyone to mobilize, the village did not have enough human resources. Up to three in the morning we walked with satchels, putting out the fire," says Sergey Paltsev, a gas station mechanic.

On June 5, 11 km from Khandyga, the taiga caught fire. The fire grew rapidly: if at first it was reported about 35 hectares, then soon 210 hectares were engulfed in flames and the fire was moving towards the village. On June 6, an emergency regime was announced, on June 8 - mobilization and evacuation. Many are afraid of re-ignition, because such a possibility is still not excluded. A fire that has "fallen asleep" for several days can "wake up" again. All these days there is sunny, windy weather. By this hour, the fire had retreated 14 kilometers.

In the Tomponsky district, 17 fires were registered, 10 of them arose as a result of one agricultural fire produced on May 7. The culprit has been identified, investigative actions are underway. A 78-year-old man from the village of Keskil admits his guilt, he burned last year's dry grass in his farmland. All their lives, from year to year, they burned last year's grass in this territory so that a new, good one would grow for cattle. But this year everything went wrong according to the script. He faces a fine of 15-19 million rubles.

The head of the district Yakov Stepanov and the Minister of Housing and Communal Services Vyacheslav Yemelyanov immediately after the flyby.

On June 5, a fire with an area of 35 hectares was already 11 kilometers from Khandyga and approached the power lines. It was hot, dry weather, the fire was moving directly towards the village. "We immediately decided to extinguish this fire, because it threatened the power lines. The forces of the Forestry Enterprise, the State Autonomous Institution "Yakutlesresurs" were put forward, then they began to mobilize people. It (the fire = editor’s note) went to the villages of Krest-Khaldzhai, Keskil. We've been holding him since the 5th-7th. On June 8, before lunch, he walked along the line, and at 15:30 the strongest wind began, which blew towards the village, and the fire, despite the fact that about 40 people were restraining it, an all-terrain vehicle, a bulldozer were working, spread over a 30-meter wide fire gap. And in just a few minutes he left in the direction of the village of Khandyga. And the guys who worked there somehow managed to get on an all-terrain vehicle, leave the place and escape from a riding fire," says the head of the district, Yakov Stepanov.

When people are asked who is the main character who defended Khandyga, everyone points to Anastasia Semenova.

Anastasia Semenova, the director of the Tomponsky branch of the the State Autonomous Institution "Yakutlesresurs", despite a broken leg, has been holding back the fire with her people since the first day. Every day it took two kilometers. They arrived at the fire on June 5 at 13:30. Work began immediately: the device of the mineralized strip, annealing began on Sunday.

"For several days it went on top, that's why it spread so quickly. What helped to restrain this fire? People's work. They didn't sleep, they worked 16-18 hours a day. The equipment was working, the Polar Airlines helicopter helped when the riding fire came to the village. People's indifference saved them, when there was a critical point, people worked without feeling sorry for themselves. The mobilized people worked along the edge, carried out extinguishing, looking after the devices and the fire not to go further on. The tractor driver is my hero. I haven't really slept since the fifth. When the fire came out here, came to the side of the power line, to the village - people grouped, no one gave up, they all worked and did not panic. In my memory, this is the most serious fire that came so close to the village," she says.

Anastasia and her family moved to Khandyga from Yakutsk in 2010. In Yakutsk, she worked as an accountant. We came to rest and stayed. She has three children. "Everyone is surprised that a woman extinguishes fires. There are two female directors in “Yakutlesresurs”: Marianna Sivtseva in Churapcha and I. Of course, the work is hard, but when they see that a woman works alongside them, they become more focused, more responsible," she says.

Dmitry Romashko was one of the first who fought in the "Orbit" at the power line with the riding fire.

"This is my job, and there was only one thought: so that the fire would not enter the village. There are no heroes here, there is a duty - not to let it take its course. The most difficult thing in extinguishing a fire is physical and moral fatigue when a fire lasts for a long time," says Dmitry Romashko, head of the second guard of the main fire station-1 of the Khandyga settlement, one of those who restrained the fire in the "Orbit" at the power line. Their walking group was sent to extinguish the fire. On the sixth day, an emergency mode was declared. Dmitry went out into the yard and saw the smoke, and he did not even wait for the call, and ran to the fire station.

"At five o'clock we were assembled in a unit, and a full gathering was announced. Firefighters were called from other areas. They were sent to posts, put on cars. There was an open fire between the "Orbit" and Khandyga, which was going towards the village, and we went there. On duty, defended. When we arrived here, we received a call. We extinguished the fire as part of the guard on a fire truck. Prevented it from going any further. In addition to us, there were also people on foot, all the organizations were working. They worked from the trunk, stretched a fire line into the forest. The area was one hundred by one hundred, it was necessary to shoot down an open fire. The rest was finished off from these satchels. The fire spread quickly, if the equipment had not been sent to the "Orbit", it would have entered the village. They wouldn't have been able to stop it."

Extinguishing comes from two sides of the village. All services are involved

Big trouble mobilizes people, unites them. The fact that the fire did not enter the village is the merit of the people, says the head of the district. Everyone worked that day without feeling sorry for themselves. On June 8, the edge of the fire moved one and a half kilometers in an hour and a half. The mobilization of the population was announced . The riding fire approached 250 meters to the village. All services were working. Along with firefighters, ordinary villagers fought the fire: men, women employees of enterprises. "Even the judges came out in full force," residents of the village say.

Thanks to the initiative of Nikolai Egorovich, a park and Victory Square appeared in Khandyga

Among the mobilized people there was a 68-year-old pensioner Nikolai Efimov. Despite the prohibitions of the children and the head of the district, after work he went home, took a shovel, kirza boots and joined the ranks of the mobilized. "The head said: "And where are you going?" I said: "Let me help with something, my conscience does not allow me to sit at home at such a moment. If anything happens, I take full responsibility“. I’d been persuading him for a long time. The guys joked: Nikolai Egorovich came out, things will go right away. This fire is coming to the village. We need to put it out. They said that the helicopter was flying, there would be help. Everyone came, in a single formation: Russians, Yakutians, Armenians - and went together. I was put in charge of one of the groups. I say: follow me, I'll show you how to do it. And gradually entered the forest. Of course, it's hard, there were swamps everywhere. But at this moment you don't feel tired, you work from the heart, just to save the village. And we solved this problem. I am a little upset by young people who are sitting in whatsapp, do not go to mobilization, scold everyone and everything, saying: someone should come and put the fire out. Guys, this is our hometown, if not us, then who? There is no time to wait. The fire is coming to the village. You can't leave your home or village in trouble. It is necessary to go out regardless of age, taking into account your health," he says.

Nikolay Egorovich — the oldest of the mobilized, June 8

This is not the first fire of a caring old man. The other day, sailing on a boat with friends, he saw a fire burning on the island. The old man immediately invited his friends to disembark and put it out. They refused, they were afraid that they would think about them. But Nikolai Egorovich persuaded them. And they put out the fire overnight. "There are plenty of such cases. Previously, we would have rushed to extinguish without hesitation. Now people are scared, they are afraid that they will be blamed, they will go to jail or they will be fined. Seeing such small fires, they pass by. I want to say one thing: if we do not take care of nature, if we are afraid - a catastrophe cannot be avoided. Nature is so angry with us. Nature is the strongest thing. We had a flood here in 2001, and I also actively participated in the liquidation of the emergency situation".

Nikolai Egorovich believes that the root of these fires lies in the law. "I worked in Soviet times, we spent all the time organizing agricultural work, creating teams and watching the wind and nature in advance. If spring is early, then you need to do it quickly, the deadlines are tight - two or three days. After that, new grass grows and does not burn like that. And now what? The old grass turned into gunpowder. How was it before? If something is burning - instantly the brigade goes out and extinguishes it. The responsibility lay with the local administration and the heads of the state farm, and they immediately extinguished the fires. And now you can see from space what is burning. And if the fire does not threaten the settlement and is located in a remote area, it is not extinguished. This has never stopped anyone before. Now it takes time to coordinate first with the republic, then with the feds".

Irina Mukhanova, head of the fire and rescue garrison of the Tomponsky district, says that this year the preparation for the fire season began as early as ever, immediately after the New Year everyone already knew about the ban on agricultural waste, briefings, meetings of heads, emergency situations were held. And, despite the ban, the first heat point appeared on May 7, 30 kilometers from Khandyga. According to cosmomonitoring, data showed that this is an agricultural dump. There was nothing to get to the place quickly. Inaccessible terrain: marshy places, several lakes, a river. There was a thaw, they were waiting for an ice drift. "We knew from the heat point that there were hayfields. On May 9, the heat point disappeared. Everyone assumed that the fire had gone out. But already on May 12, several lights appeared, by the 15th they had grown". And Irina and the task force flew to the place for inspection, establishing the persons involved. The fire was already spreading rapidly, the helicopter could not land in the designated place because of the smoke.

Irina and the precinct officer were dropped off at the hunting lodge, they had no transport to get back. They met many hunters in the forest and asked them some questions. The hunting season had just begun. At some point, they found themselves in the very inferno, the fire surrounded them from all sides. Everything was blazing. "To such an extent it flared up there, usually at night the fire sleeps, but here everything was blazing. Probably because of dry grass or dead wood. It was scary. We extinguished it, saved hunting houses, if not for the guys we met, everything would have burned down there. In general, fortunately for us, we met the head of the village of Keskil and the forester Gennady Ivanovich Fedorov, who also went to work on these thermal points." They got back home, changing from boat to boat, rowed across two lakes, then along the river for two hours and on an all-terrain vehicle to the federal highway. On May 17, a fire was registered and a criminal case was opened on the 21st. "Due to the fact that the fire was in a remote place, there was no threat to the settlement, there were rivers and lakes around, no decision was made to extinguish it. There are certain standards. And there was nothing for people to get on. And if they get there, they won't be able to put out with satchels, they need completely different forces there. Or it was necessary to extinguish the fire by aviation on May 7," she says.

On June 9-10, it seemed that the village had been defended. However, on June 11, the fire "woke up" again. And on June 12, they began to carry out a counter fall to form a barrier from the fire, which was going in the direction of Khandyga: there was a fire one and a half kilometers away.

Today, the emergency mode due to fires, which has been in effect since June 6, has been lifted. The investigating authorities have opened a criminal case of negligence, an investigation is underway. The situation has stabilized, there is one distant hearth 14 kilometers from Khandyga.

15 employees of the State Autonomous Institution "Yakutlesresurs" are fighting it today.

The guys from the Tattinsky district, who came to the rescue on alarm. Some of them are on vacation, they didn't even bring toothbrushes and slippers.

The owner of the cafe "Zerkalnaia" Natalia Anatolyevna. All these days, from nine in the morning to three in the morning, she cooked food for those who are fighting the fire. Her pies and the rain are the most positive moments during a major fire.

The former head of the district Ilya Shadrin from the first day on the front line. He blames the imperfection of legislation on agricultural land.

Minister of Housing and Communal Services Vyacheslav Yemelyanov. It was he who supplied videos and photographs, informing Yakutia during a major fire.

Timur Besayev, the commander of the Mi-8 helicopter of Polar Airlines, who organized 22 drains, dumping about 66 tons of water, is considered the main hero in the fire, he was the one who stopped the fire.

The head of the district, Yakov Stepanov. He says that the village was defended only thanks to caring people. Thanks to everyone who participated in the elimination of the fire.

Photographer: Alexey Vasiliev

Author: Elena Alekseeva