siberia fire
© Getty Images
A fire in a narrow strip of forest in Yurga District, Kemerovo Region, south Siberia

A raging blaze so big it can be seen from space has engulfed vast swathes of Russia.

Wildfires in the Siberian countryside began late last month and have now burned 5million acres of fields and forests, sparking what Russian officials have called a "critical situation."

The infernos were caused by a mix of unusually hot weather triggered by climate change and Russian citizens flouting lockdown rules, according to Sergei Anoprienko, head of the federal forest agency Rosleskhoz.

"People self-isolated outdoors and forgot about fire safety rules," Anoprienko said.

"In some regions, the temperature is already around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and people just can't keep themselves in their apartments.

"People rushed outdoors and as a result we have a surge of thermal points," he added.

Wildfires are common in Russia's forested regions, particularly as the weather warms up in Spring. Locals commonly set fires to dry out grass which can spread rapidly in high winds.

However, the current infernos are far larger than normal, in part due to the country enduring its hottest winter since records began.

Thomas Smith, a geographer at the London School of Economics, has suggested around 5million acres of forest and grassland are ablaze in Russia.

The largest fires spans 1 million acres - roughly two and a half times the size of London.

In the central Russian region of Krasnoyarsk, 10 times as much land was ablaze on April 27 compared to the same time last year, according to Russian Emergencies Minister Evgeny Zinichev.

In the Transbaikal region, fires have engulfed an area larger than the whole island of Maui, Hawaii. That's about three times the area burned there last April.

NASA reports that many of the fires began after strong winds on April 23 pushed fires set by locals out of control.

"The regions of Kemerovo and Novosibirsk among others have been the hardest hit to date," NASA wrote in a blog post. "Nine Siberian regions have been affected by these wildfires. Clouds of smoke have swept across the Siberian landscape."

As the planet heats up due to climate change, more wildfires are expected to erupt across the globe. Global warming makes grass, trees and other plantlife drier than usual, making them more flammable.

It's believed that climate change has doubled the number of large fires between 1984 and 2015 in the western United States. Russian officials have also recently battled blazes near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Forest fires near the Ukrainian city of Prypiat last month reportedly pushed radiation levels in the area up to 16 times their normal levels.

The blazes released radiation trapped for decades in soil surrounding the abandoned nuclear power station of Chernobyl.

The plant was abandoned in 1986 following a catastrophic explosion that caused the world's worst nuclear accident.