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U.S. - Russia Cooperating On Forests

U.S. government agencies are working to provide relief supplies for those affected by Russia's forest fires.

Working with the Government of Russia to outline a comprehensive U.S. response to the severe, forest fires in the Russian Federation, several U.S. government agencies are working to provide relief supplies.

This includes equipment to bolster Russia’s fire suppression efforts, such as water tanks, pumps, hand tools, fire-protective clothing, and medical kits. As well, a monetary donation to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will help provide relief items, such as blankets, bedding, and food parcels, for some of the people who lost their homes in the fire.

In addition, the State of California, which frequently suffers from forest fires, is donating fire-protection clothing, which was identified as a critical need by Russian firefighting authorities. This brings total U.S. assistance to approximately $4.5 million.

Since late June, Russia has baked in unusually high temperatures, often reaching 40 degrees (Celsius). The heat wave is unprecedented in 130 years of Russian record keeping, and has sparked thousands of peat and forest fires, most of them in western Russia. The resulting smoke has settled like a blanket of poisonous smog over Moscow. At the height of the crisis, 700 Muscovites were dying daily. That's double the city's usual death rate.

Because U.S. and Russian forests share similar plant and animal species and face similar threats, 2 two countries have been working together to protect the world’s largest forests for more than 50 years. Under the auspices of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator, Craig Fugate met his counterpart in the Russian Emergencies Ministry this July as part of a 14 year effort to strengthen our joint capacity to respond to such natural disasters.

The U.S. departments of Agriculture and Interior, also, have a long history of exchanging information and technical expertise with Russian forestry and firefighting agencies in such areas as firefighter training and wildfire behavior. This disaster highlights the need for continued and expanded cooperation in both of these areas.

During a telephone call to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, President Barack Obama expressed his deepest condolences for the tragic losses that Russia has suffered in the recent wildfires, and extended an offer of help.

"We are taking action to support the heroic efforts of Russian firefighters and emergency responders as they seek to bring these fires under control," said State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley.

"The United States stands with the people of Russia as they fight to contain the destructive spread of wildfires."