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Officials say nuclear facility safe from fires; health risks remain

By Les Neuhaus, For CNN
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Moscow skies clear of smoke
  • A red alert has been dropped after fire activity is stabilized
  • There are still fears about toxic elements from the Chernobyl disaster mixing with winds and ash
  • Fires are still blazing in the Moscow region and other areas

(CNN) -- Fires around a nuclear production facility in western Russia have been fully stabilized and a red alert on the situation has been dropped, the national emergency ministry said Wednesday.

The nuclear facility, located in the Chelyabinsk region -- specifically, in Snezhinsk -- has avoided any dangerous threat, the press office of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry told CNN.

However, fears of fires spreading around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site have not abated and experts are still warning that flames in those rareas could mix toxic elements with winds and ash.

In total, 612 wildfires are currently burning over 92,703 hectares (229,074 acres), with 56 of them considered to be large-scale fires covering 58,765 hectares (145,212 acres), including 31 peat-bog fires.

According to the ministry, the number of fires and the area they cover has decreased in the past 24 hours, and no new deaths have been reported.

Are you there? Share your videos, photos of the wildfires, smoke

Fires continue in the Moscow, Ryazan and Nizhny Novgorod regions. The ministry said it plans to reinforce its efforts Wednesday to put down the blazes in those regions.

Winds have blown smog away from central Moscow, but smoke from the forest fires is likely to return to the city soon, the director of the HydroMet Center weather-monitoring agency, Roman Vilfand, said in an interview with state radio Wednesday.

"Smoke will return after windless weather sets in," Vilfand explained. "A light wind is mixing air masses, pushing the smoke upwards and bringing relief to the city. But the situation has not become any better where fires are burning."

"Forest fires have not disappeared and smoke will fill Moscow, which is in a high pressure zone now," he added.

The weather forecast, published on the agency's website, said "abnormal heat which is seven to 11 degrees higher than the climatic norm" will resume in most regions of Central Russia at least until August 15, reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day.

CNN's Maxim Tkachenko contributed to this report