Forest Fires
In Summer

The worst forest fires Yakutia has seen in a long time plunged the region into embers and smoke for months. Tatiana Philippova's poem portrays the situation, full of fear and tension. 

By Tatiana Philippova

In summer 2021, forest fires were raging in Yakutia and, with the exception of a few clearer days, everything was covered in thick smog.

Residents of the region received messages from the Ministry of Emergency Situations and watched satellite maps and news closely. From time to time a fire would reach a village, as for example— Byas-Kyuel, in the district Gornyi ulus. The village was greatly damaged, more than 30 houses were destroyed due to the crown fires. No one expected that, people did not have time to prepare and save at least their domestic animals.

In Kobyai ulus, the smoke hid the sun, painting the sky in a bloody red. The press framed it as the end of the world. The heat and humidity, caused by the closed windows and the lack of fresh air in our rooms, the coughing, irritated eyes, the feeling of helplessness at the sight of living things dying right before your eyes, the impossibility to leave the place due to costly tickets and flight delays – all of these factors caused great anxiety. My Instagram feed was exuding pain during those days.

We couldn`t leave the house because of the air pollution. Before that, we had been cooped up for over a year because of COVID-19.

Outside our windows, a landscape unfolded, which was hardly different than in winter, when fog lasts for months and an invisible danger threatens you. I wanted to write something, but I wasn’t able to – trapped within four walls, I no longer felt like myself.

The August fire 4ACC in Melzhekhsie, Churapcha ulus, took a volunteer’s life, Elbagi Igitian. Within three days, that same fire had reached the territory of my home village Khayakhsyt, where my mom and daughter were staying at the time. Fire damaged the power lines, and villagers were cut off from the outside world. The head of the village couldn’t call for help, and I couldn’t call my family. Khayakhsyt is a seven hour drive away, at the other side of the river. River ferries no longer operated, because of the thick smog, and the only thing we were left to do was to wait. The situation was critical, but luckily the wind changed. If it had not, 4ACC would have reached the houses in the village in just a few hours.

Here, in this video, I present a piece about the state of suspension, in the background you can see scenes shot in Yakutsk and Gornyi ulus