Rescue crews fight fires in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and Zhytomyr Oblast with help of drone bought by EU and UN

April 27, 2020

Photo courtesy of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine

Fire fighting crews in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone and Zhytomyr Oblast are employing the latest technology to tackle burning forest and grasslands – a drone purchased with the help of the European Union and the United Nations.

Forest fires have been burning in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone and Zhytomyr Oblast for several weeks, causing an abnormally high concentration air pollution in Kyiv. According to IQ Air, the Ukrainian capital broke an abysmal record on April 17, topping the list of cities with the highest air pollution in the world.

Maksym Ischuk, the Head of the Resource Support Division of the Main Department of the SES of Ukraine in Donetsk Oblast, says that the fires in the exclusion zone are spreading with incredible speed, and controlling a fire that already covers huge numbers of hectares of the territory is extremely difficult and sometimes almost impossible.

“Our specialists conduct preliminary aerial surveillance with the help of the drone, which not only allows us to monitor the cells of ignition quickly, but also allows us not to expose our crews to additional danger,” says Mr. Ischuk.

The drone, with a built-in thermal imager, which was purchased by the United Nations Development Programme under the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme in November 2017 for the SES of Ukraine in Donetsk Oblast using European Union funds, helps rescuers track the location of a fire at an early stage, so fire-fighting brigades can be dispatched quickly to prevent the expansion of the fire to a larger territory.

To conduct such monitoring in the exclusion zone, the rescuers of the SES of Ukraine use the installed thermal imager with the help of a team from the SES of Ukraine in Donetsk Oblast. The Donetsk Oblast team already has an experience in using this equipment and is actively sharing it with other rescuers.

“We welcome the bravery of the rescue crews and are pleased to support the emergency teams in saving lives and addressing the outbreak of fire,” said Rustam Pulatov, Programme Coordinator of the UN RPP’s Social Cohesion and Community Security Component.

“This in turn helps prevent environmental pollution and significantly reduces health risks to both fire-fighters and the people of Ukraine,” he added.

This is not the first time a drone has been used in SES rescue operations. This device has already helped to save the lives of fishermen stranded on ice floes and to find missing children. Also, the drone has helped locate many mine and explosive hazards for further demining along the coastline of the Azov Sea.


The United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The Programme is supported by twelve international partners: the European Union, the European Investment Bank and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.