Indispensable Work of Forest Officers as Wildfire in Abai Region Localized

ASTANA – Wildfires that were raging in the Abai Region since June 8 have been localized, leaving smoldering fires to be extinguished. Evacuated residents of adjacent villages have returned to their homes, as the situation stabilized, the Akimat (administration) of the city of Semei reported on June 15.

Photo credit: Click to see the map in full size. The map is designed by The Astana Times.

The fire initially spread rapidly to a large area of 60,000 hectares, claiming the lives of 14 forest workers. The government and citizens of Kazakhstan have provided various support and assistance to the families and relatives of the victims.

In a June 13 interview with Kazinform, Vasiliy Labanchuk, head of the department of forestry and specially protected natural areas in the North Kazakhstan Region, spoke about the work of forest officers, listing protection, reforestation and forest management as their primary duties.

According to Labanchuk, each forest ranger is assigned to patrol a large area ranging from 1,500-2,000 to 20,000 hectares of forest. The wildfire that broke out in the Abai Region showed that no matter how much preventive work is carried out, the forest ranger physically cannot simultaneously cover the entire territory entrusted to him.

“While he is in one location, someone can throw garbage or light a fire in another place. Therefore, each person should carry their own responsibility and not harm the forest,” Labanchuk noted.

The preparation of equipment for the fire-hazardous season begins in March. Forest officers set grass on fire in advance until the snow cover completely disappears to prevent the grass from burning with the onset of heat.

In summer, the forest ranger, who lives at the location of the forest, checks the territory for smoke and reports to a dispatcher if he notices it. As soon as the duty officer receives information about the fire, he sends equipment to the site, including tractors, machines equipped with motor pumps, high pressure pumps and backpack sprayers.

The forest ranger assesses the situation and decides if additional help is needed. If necessary, a tractor with a specialized plow is used to make a 70-centimeter wide furrow and spread the soil around the edges to stop a fire.

“Patrol cars also have minimal fire extinguishing equipment: crackers, backpack sprayers and 50-100 liters of water. Emergency services are called in as a last resort,” said Labanchuk.

He assured that the territory of the forest has adequate equipment, with drones and towers used in all sectors with video surveillance cameras. The region has 580 forest guard workers, including 354 forest rangers. All forest guards are provided with 796 radio stations.

Deforestation is another complex task that requires huge work. The forest officer selects areas for felling using taxation descriptions from the forest management project. Once the area is determined, the lines outlining the territory of the cutting area from another forest are cut. After that, the foresters count each tree. Everything is controlled using satellites.

Forest officers also carry out enormous work on reforestation. More than seven million seedlings have been planted since the beginning of this year. Any person can track each landing through the interactive map OrmanKZ.

The area covered by the forest in the North Kazakhstan Region reaches 550,000 hectares, varying from 0.4 to 17%, with 12 forestries serving the site.

Despite the huge amount of work and high responsibility, the monthly salary of foresters ranges from 85,000 tenge ($189.34) to 160,000 tenge ($356.40).

“We are waiting for a rise in salaries. We believe that it is necessary to change the norms, as planting volumes increase,” said Labanchuk.

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