Siberia's Sprawling Sawdust Dump Fire Will Burn For Years

A satellite photo of the sawdust fire taken in June 2016 (LandSat/Greenpeace)
A satellite photo of the sawdust fire taken in June 2016 (LandSat/Greenpeace)

Environmentalists in Siberia are expressing concern over an ongoing fire at the world’s largest sawdust dump—a fire that’s been burning since 2013 and will continue to do so for years to come.

As The Siberian Times reports, the monumental mountain of sawdust—which caught fire three years ago—is located in the Ust-Kutsky district of Irkutsk, and measures more than 10.4 hectares (25.7 acres) in size. That’s roughly the size of 800 Olympic swimming pools.

According to a council spokesperson, “It is now impossible to extinguish [the] dump with such an amount of sawdust,” adding, “Obviously, it will keep burning for a few more years.”

Adding insult to injury, 15 trucks arrive each day from the Trans-Siberian Forest company carrying 70 cubic meters (2,500 cubic feet) of sawdust waste. They’re literally adding fuel to this fire. Estimates place the total amount of sawdust at the site at about two million cubic meters (70 million cubic feet). To prevent the spread of smoldering flames, the company has constructed a “mineral border line” around the dump (guessing that means a bunch of rocks), and a fire crew is on permanent standby.


“Over the past three years this fire has caused dangerous smoke to Ust-Kut and nearby settlements multiple times, with overall population of about 50,000 people,” noted Alexander Yaroshenko, head of the Forestry Programme of Greenpeace Russia, in The Siberian Times. “That is an emergency situation of at least regional scale.”

[Siberian Times]

George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

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So why was millions of tons of sawdust just dumped someplace rather that used for something like power or planting or anything rather than waiting for a open flame.