Interfax reported Tuesday that Russian officials have declared an interregional state of emergency as difficult-to-control forest fires threaten the country’s top-secret nuclear weapons development site.
Since early August, wildfires have burned in Nizhny Novgorod and the adjacent republic of Mordovia, both around 500 kilometers east of Moscow, The Moscow Times reports.
The wildfires have spread to Sarov city, which has been a hub for nuclear research since the Soviet period and was the location of the creation of the first Soviet atomic weapon.
The research institute now produces nuclear warheads and is said to be working on Russia’s strategic missiles, notably its much-touted hypersonic weaponry.
Due to difficult-to-reach terrain, dead timber left behind from the 2010 wildfires, and bad weather, firemen have struggled to put out the flames.
Numerous planes from the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Defense have been dispatched to extinguish the flames.
Two helicopters and a Be-200ES aircraft would be dispatched to the flames on Wednesday, according to the emergency ministry.
An unparalleled wildfire season has ravaged Russia, fuelled by extreme heatwaves and dry conditions worsened by climate change, especially in Siberia.