The radiation levels near the Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power station, spiked 16 times higher than the normal limits after a nearby forest fire engulfed the disaster site.
Fire tenders were pressed into service to control the raging fire which burnt everything that came its way on the land which included the forests and the exclusion zone. Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the Soviet Armed Forces had established the exclusion zone, which till date is one of the most radioactively contaminated areas in the world.
Testing tool revealed the increased level of radiation
In a Facebook post, Egor Firsov, the head of the state ecological inspection service, said that the tools used to measure the radiation level in the area showed worrisome data. The data was collected with the help of the Geiger counter, an instrument used for detecting and measuring ionizing radiation. The fire had spread to about 100 hectares (250 acres) of forest, according to the authorities.
Firsov posted a video of the Geiger counter with the reading of the zone. He wrote: "There is bad news — in the centre 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."
Revealing further about the fire in the area which, in the absence of any human population, is covered with trees and wild growth, Firsov said: "The problem of setting fires to grass by careless citizens in spring and autumn has long been a very acute problem for us. Every year we see the same picture — fields, reeds, forests burn in all regions." However, much to the relief of the authorities, the capital of Kyiv, located 60 miles from the radiation zone, remained stable.
Authorities arrested a 27-year-old man for setting the fires
The fire which initially broke out on Saturday afternoon near the village of Vladimirovka, located in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, spread quickly with the help of speeding wind. By next day, the firefighters were able to contain the raging fire within the 50-acre spread, but it continues to burn in the uninhabited zone inside the exclusion zone.
According to The Guardian, the police arrested a 27-year-old man for starting the fire, which he did 'for fun.' He said that he burnt some grass and did not expect the fire to spread to such a huge area.
Ukraine has a fine of $6.50 for anyone starting a fire. "This can't continue. The fine must go up 50-100 times," wrote Firsov. Chernobyl which houses four nuclear reactor was embroiled in the controversy after its fourth reactor exploded in April 1986, killing 54 people and infecting several others. The reactor was covered with a giant protective dome in 2016. The remaining three reactors continued to produce electricity until 2000.