Ukraine wildfires

Heavy smoke rises from a wildfire in the Novoaidar district of Luhansk Oblast in Ukraine. The fire started in a forest spread to the village of Smolyanynove, killing five people and destroying over 100 houses. The photograph was released by the State Emergency Service on July 7.
Forest fires have killed 5 people and destroyed over 100 houses in Luhansk Oblast, some 20 kilometers north of the front line of Russia's war against Ukraine.

The fire started around noon on July 6, quickly taking up over 50 hectares of the forest. By the morning of July 7, firefighters contained the fire to some 85 hectares. But due to hot weather and high winds, it has spread to the north and hit a village of Smolyanynove later that day.

As of the afternoon of June 8, the wildfires have destroyed 23 residential houses in Smolyanynove and 80 cottage houses in the Vovche Ozero housing community there, according to the State Emergency Service. Another 36 residential houses were damaged in Smolyanynove.

Currently, 25 people, including 16 children, are in the district hospital. Another seven are in the hospital in the nearby city of Severodonetsk, according to Pavlo Lysianskyi, representative of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Rescuers have evacuated 30 people, including 13 children, from Smolyanynove, and resettled another 30, according to the State Emergency Service.


The police are investigating three main versions for the cause of the fires: abnormally high air temperature, careless handling of fire, and arson.

"The final version will be established only after a set of necessary examinations. The main task now is to save people and prevent looting. We have set up additional mobile police teams to patrol these areas," head of National Police Ihor Klymenko said in a statement.

According to preliminary estimates, the fires have destroyed almost 5,000 hectares of land, Governor of Luhansk Oblast Serhiy Haidai said on Facebook.

Currently, the rescuers are trying to contain the fire around Smolyanynove, and two fires close to the villages of Kapitanove and Voronove, according to the State Emergency Service.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited the area on June 8. He said that each family that lost their home in the fires will receive Hr 300,000 ($11,140), and each person affected will receive Hr 20,000 ($742) support from the state. Additional financial support will be given to families of the deceased.

The emergency service has set up operational headquarters and a life support unit at the scene of the fire. Police have put up roadblocks around the area, allowing only the rescuers and medics to enter.

State Emergency Service workers from Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Poltava oblasts are working on the spot. Units of the National Guard and Armed Forces were also brought in. In total, 1,622 people are involved in fighting the fire using 200 pieces of equipment.

Ukraine's Joint Forces Operation that fights off Russian-backed militants in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblast reported that the situation at the front line is fully under control. It has sent 444 Armed Forces servicepersons to fight the fire - those in reserve and in the withdrawal areas.

Zelensky also instructed on June 7 to use aircrafts to extinguish the fires, according to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Haidai said that the rescuers wanted to use the aircrafts before, but decided against it. Russian-backed militants said they "can't guarantee the safety" of the aircrafts, according to Haidai, meaning they might try to take them down.

Still, on June 8 two aircrafts from the State Emergency Service started to extinguish the fires, according to Avakov.

"We have three fires that cause concern. The president today decided to use aviation. Aviation is already in the air," Avakov said on Facebook.