The emergency was so serious that the headquarters of Defense Minister Grechko was moved to the epicenter of events.
Many people remember the summer of 2010. When the peat bogs flared up in Shatura, and several areas were enveloped in stinking acrid smoke. It was dusk in Moscow, and cars drove during the day with their headlights on.
Summer 2010 in the capital
But in 1972 it was even worse.
Then in January there was a climatic failure: there was practically no snow, and then 40-degree frosts hit. The soil was deprived of the necessary moisture, and already in March, surprisingly warm days set in, and spring quickly turned into a hot summer. The entire middle lane was covered with a blocking anticyclone, the average temperature in July-August was +40, and there was no precipitation. And the fires started.
The fire happened near Shatura, the wind quickly brought the flame to the city. The Shatura peat enterprise and the villages closest to it flared up. Peat was mined there in lumps and the locals kept a supply of briquettes – they used them instead of coal. That’s where they lit up in the first place.
Fires quickly engulfed residential areas.
A few days – and the situation became critical. It got to the point that a railway passed 12 kilometers from the peat quarries, and briquettes were taken out along it. And from the heat, the rails literally twisted into knots.
Rescuers and the military immediately arrived at the scene, a total of 70 thousand people. Two weeks later, more than 100,000 soldiers and emergency workers joined them. Under Shatura, the Tamansky land division and the Kantemirovskaya tank division were sent. Heavy machinery made clearings in dense forests, soldiers dug trenches day and night to stop the flames.
But it only got worse: the flame formed a 10-kilometer fire shaft and rapidly moved to residential villages. A strong wind also interfered with the extinguishing – it constantly fanned the fire. In total, about 20 thousand hectares of peat burned.
Everyone who was possible was connected to the extinguishing – the work went on both day and night
Earthmovers worked around the clock, about 100,000 tons of water per day were poured onto the flames, but nothing helped. It got to the point that Andrey Grechko, the Minister of Defense of the USSR, came to the place. He organized a headquarters and remained there until the elimination of all the consequences of the fires.
Andrey Antonovich Grechko
Vasily Konotop, the 1st secretary of the capital regional committee of the CPSU, also arrived there.
Vasily Ivanovich Konotop
All possible means and resources were connected to extinguishing. When they realized that the fire could not be stopped, they thought about filling the peat fields with concrete. But it didn’t come to that.
It was possible to cope with the fire with the help of nature. In September, the anticyclone passed and it became unexpectedly cold – also an anomaly, but it was only on hand. And at the end of the month it snowed. That’s when the fires died down. At first, the fire stopped spreading, and then it was completely extinguished. But they fought with him almost until winter.
It was the most serious fire in the history of the USSR. The consequences for the economy were very serious – the fire destroyed hectares of grain fields and the state had to sell 500 tons of gold in order to buy wheat abroad.
And after almost 40 years, the situation repeated itself and again near Shatura. The fire then was not so ferocious, but it brought no less harm.