Forest fires in Chernobyl have been blazing through parts of the exclusion zone for over a week, and has now raised concerns that the blaze is heading dangerously close to its nuclear reactor.

This news follows just a week after Ukrainian officials discovered a huge radiation spike in the area where the first fires began.



As the fires continue to burn, there are growing concerns that if the blaze gets too close to the reactor, which famously exploded back in 1986, there could be radiation contamination.

Ukraine fireEast2West

Hundreds of firefighters have been working to try extinguish the fires which have been burning since April 5.

The fires had already engulfed 8,600 acres since the wildfires began and on Saturday, April 11, 400 firefighters, 100 fire engines and several helicopters had been deployed to the zone, The New York Times reports.

The fires caused radiation levels to spike 16 times higher last week, however this is still much lower than the radiation given off by the initial explosion, but still poses a risk the the country’s residents.

Chernobyl Forest Fires Now Burning Dangerously Close To Nuclear ReactorEast2West

Due to the fires growing across the surrounding area of the exclusion zone, police have evacuated residents from the village of Poliske which is situated inside the zone.

Despite the fact people are banned from living within 30 kilometres (18 miles) of the power station, it is believed that 20 people call Poliske home.



Weather forecasts have shown the wind has been blowing plumes of radioactive smoke towards the Chernihiv region and the border with Belarus and concerns are growing that the smoke may make its way over to the country’s capital of Kiev just 60 miles away. Kiev is home to almost three million people.

FireEast 2 West

Kateryna Pavlova, the acting head of the agency that oversees the area that’s currently burning, told The New York Times:

At the moment, we cannot say the fire is contained. We have been working all night digging firebreaks around the plant to protect it from fire.

Wind can raise hot particles in the air together with the ash and blow it toward populated areas.

We are lucky to have quarantine measures in place now as people stay at home, walk less and wear masks.

Wildfires around the Chernobyl region aren’t uncommon, but the current blaze was reported to be arson by Ukrainian police. The man who started them has since been detained.

FiresEast 2 West

As concerns grow about the radioactive smoke spreading, Yegor Firsov, head of Ukraine’s state ecological inspection service, confirmed that radiation levels in Kiev were ‘within normal levels’ last week.



As of April 9, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine reported that background radiation levels continued to be within the normal range around the capital city.