April 6 (UPI) — A weekend wildfire in a forest inside the shuttered Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s exclusion zone in Ukraine caused radiation to spike in the area.
The fire, which started Saturday, burned about 250 acres.
The National Police said the fire started “on dry grass and bushes” near the village of Vladimirovka. Firefighters made 42 water drops on the largest fires as 124 others battled smaller blazes started by the wildfire.
Police said 50 of the acres burned were inside the exclusion zone. No new fires were reported in the area as of Monday morning.
Yegor Firsov, Ukraine’s ecological inspection service chief, said the fire caused radiation to spike.
“There is bad news — in the center of the fire, radiation is above normal,” Firsov said, posting a video of a Geiger counter on Facebook. “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.”
He would later say the fire did not “affect the radiation situation” in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and suburbs, so people should not be afraid to open windows there.
The police said it opened a criminal investigation into the fire for possible violations of fire safety requirements.
Vladimirovka is part of a deserted 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone established after the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion that sent radioactive fallout across Europe and exposed millions to heightened levels of radiation.