Hundreds of firefighters and fire engines, as well as helicopters and airplanes, are battling forest fires near the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Radiation levels in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is usually low, but the fires have caused a dramatic increase in radiation.
Over the past 34 years, radiation has been absorbed into the soil and the vegetation, but when a fire breaks out, the radiation is released to the surface by the particles in smoke.
On April 5, 2020, Egor Firsov, head of Ukraine’s ecological inspection service, wrote in a Facebook post, “There is bad news — in the center of the fire, radiation is above normal. As you can see in the video, the readings of the device are 2.3, when the norm is 0.14. But this is only within the area of the fire outbreak.”
The maximum amount of natural background radiation allowed, and considered safe, is 0.5 microsieverts per second, CNN reports. Firsov’s Geiger counter shows an amount five times that number.
It is believed that the fires were started by farmers so as to clear stubbles, which is a common practice in the area in spring and fall.
Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, seems currently safe from heightened radiation level, but wind changes could change the situation. The population of Ukraine is currently under lockdown orders, lessening the chances of inhaling radioactive particles.