CBRN / HazMat Training Blog

Seeing the wood for the trees: The firefighters of Chernobyl

Written by Steven Pike on 12 July 2013

For firefighters, bringing wild or forest fires under control is a challenge they face every day.  Wild fires can spread at a rate of over 14 miles an hour over dry, sun-parched land and can overwhelm even the most seasoned professionals. Only recently, we’ve seen tragedies in different communities when firefighters have been lost in operations.  And with increasing disruption in global temperatures and weather patterns, this problem seems unlikely to recede anytime soon.

So imagine being part of a small, largely unequipped firefighting team in a place where conditions are becoming perfect for wildfires. Not only that, but you know there’s something much more dangerous in the region you’re trying to protect.

Your home turf is Chernobyl and for the past 30 years, the woods and brush around the closed power plant have been absorbing nuclear contamination. One fire would result in radioactive materials, such as plutonium 938 and strontium 90, being released into the atmosphere in the smoke and travelling for mile upon mile. Such an event would have wide-reaching and devastating consequences, not just in Ukraine but wherever the toxic wind blows.

The tools used by the firefighters of Chernobyl include fire towers, to stand watch, and fire trucks. A helicopter is sometimes available but lacks the facility to disperse water from the air. However, the risk of fire is considerable and the seriousness of the operation is not lost on the the team that works tirelessly to reduce the risk of fires around the former power plant. Thankfully, the UN has now recognised the potential for disaster and begun a $20 million sustainable development project to tackle the issue.

An excellent article about the amazing firefighters of Chernobyl can be found here.

This story reminds us of the bravery of first responders, the emergency and military services that keep us and our communities safe.  Our key values include a commitment to better prepare emergency workers to respond following CBRN and HazMat incidents and we are proud to support them. They are special people indeed.

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Topics: Radiation Hazard Training

Steven Pike

Written by Steven Pike

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics (UK) Ltd. A graduate of the University of Hertfordshire, Steven has been awarded a number of international patents relating to the field of hazardous material training systems and technology.