10 Марта 2015

Fire fighters of Solovki will receive everything they need to protect priceless historical legacy from fire.

The topics discussed at the briefing on social and economic development of Solovetsky Archipelago presided by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill were numerous: restoration of Spaso-Preobrazhensky monastery, construction of a museum, a cinema and a hotel, restoration of weed plant, laying power cable from the mainland and many others.

Solovetsky Archipelago is the biggest one in the White Sea, but it is practically unpopulated. There are just 1,000 residents at the area of 350 square kilometers. In summer population of Solovki increases multi-fold, as many tourists and pilgrims come to the island to see the Solovki monastery of XV century. The three-year program of development of the main historical site of the Russian North is issued. However, development of infrastructure will increase the number of tourists and risk of man-made emergencies.

Now there are very few accidents occurring at the only populated place at Solovetsky Archipelago, Solovetsky settlement. Though practically all residences here are made of wood, fires are rare in Solovetsky. In 2014 local fire fighters had to extinguish a fire just once, when a bath house was burning. Fire fighters think that such a low number of accidents correlates with low number of disadvantaged people that usually start fires. Over last 5 years fire fighter only had to respond to 17 fires. It is a drop in the bucket in comparison to any average settlement, but you should always be ready to everything.  

In 1923 a big fire destroyed a significant part of wooden building of Solovki Kremlin. It is unlikely that such a disaster will happen again, but it is always better to take preventive measures.

To ensure safety of the site that is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage list and the State Register of Tangible Cultural Heritage of the Russian Federation, the population of Solovetskoye municipal district and forest area of the island, a fire station operates on Solovki. A new building of the fire station, white with blue roof, constructed in 2007, is visible from the airport and from other points in the settlement. Before 2007 the fire station used to occupy a single-store wooden building looking like a bar.

New tasks

As of August, 5, 2014, by the order of Minister of EMERCOM of Russia the local fire station received the status of specialized fire and rescue unit. It increased the number of tasks of fire fighters, as well as the number of staff and vehicles. The fire station and volunteer fire-fighting team of Solovki received new equipment, uniform and certificates for fire fighting vehicles. Vladimir Puchkov, Minister of EMERCOM of Russia, gave sets of fire fighting uniform to Solovki museum of history and architecture. He said that though EMERCOM of Russia is always the first to come to rescue, prevention of emergencies is its main task. More vehicles and equipment for extinguishing wildfires and for securing fire safety of social infrastructure, residencies and nature.

The main task of local fire fighters is securing fire safety of the monastery, the museum and Solovetsky settlement. If necessary, they also travel to other islands of the archipelago — Anzer, Bolshay Muksalma, Bolshoy Zayatsky. There are some historical sites on these islands too, and there are many places on Solovki only reachable by water transport.

Now there are 39 fire fighters on the island instead of 19. Some of them are local residents; some will work on a rotation basis coming to the island for a month. Fire fighters of Solovki believe that it is still a little difficult to live so far from civilization all the time, but one month is all right. The islands are especially nice in summer, when local forests are full of mushrooms, blackberry and bakeapple berry, and one day of fishing will provide a good haul of smelt, navaga and codfish.  

Solovki volunteers

There is also a volunteer fire fighting team on Solovki, consisting of local residents and monks. The volunteers have two power pumps. 10-12 people can participate in extinguishing a fire simultaneously. A year ago the volunteers had their trial of fire when a big wildfire started because of careless tourists destroyed 70 hectares of wood. Everyone was fighting this fire — fire fighters, pilgrims and monks.

As Solovki is an island, emergency services have to deal with the White Sea more often than with fire, as most emergencies happen in the sea. From May to September, during the navigation season, people compete in sailing races, travel by canoe and catamarans, make trips to Arkhangelsk, Onega and Kem to buy food. Sometimes road accidents happen, not just with cars (off-roaders and buses are the most common vehicles on local dirt roads), but also with quads, bicycles and snowmobiles.

One is helpless on Solovki without cross-country vehicles, and local fire fighters know it very well. They got some new have car for their fleet vehicles, and now they need some low-maintenance lighter vehicles. Soon they will get some cutters, a quad and a snowmobile.  


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