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Chernobyl Wildfires refers to the news that forest fires around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine had begun burning near the nuclear disaster site in April 2020, resulting in increased air pollution and radiation levels. Following the disaster, a series of memes appeared describing the news on various sites and platforms, typically revolved around the online discussion of April 2020 Disaster Predictions, the coronavirus pandemic and the apocalypse, similar to the Krakatoa Eruption in early April. Many of these memes also referenced HBO's TV series, Chernobyl, jesting a season two that would cover the events of the fire.
On April 4th, 2020, several news outlets reported that a cluster of wildfires had begun burning in the woods near the village of Vladimirovka, inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The fire covered roughly 50 acres and spread closer to the site of the nuclear disaster. Ukrainian emergency services stated that radiation levels were also spiking as a result, but added it was “only within the area of the fire outbreak.” Though the fire spread close to where some of the most dangerous waste was stored, hundreds of firefighters were deployed and the brushfire was ultimately contained in the following weeks, according to Ukrainian officials. Police later arrested a 27-year-old man accused of sparking the blaze. On April 17th, 2020, media sources then reported that, due to the fires releasing radioactive contamination, the air quality in Kyiv and surrounding areas was now “the most polluted in the world” (featured below).
News of the fires surrounding Chernobyl began trending on social media platforms in mid-April where users referenced the wildfires and radiation in various memes. One such example was posted to the r/memes subreddit on April 6th, 2020, by Redditor MrYoggi. The meme (seen below) received over 23,000 upvotes and 154 comments.
Redditor plane831superior also posted a meme to the r/dankmemes sub on April 10th, 2020, under the title, “Goodnight Chernobyl.” Using the You Can't Defeat Me format, the post (shown below) was upvoted over 3,500 times.
Now it’s true!! pic.twitter.com/wOEDdV2f53
— Ig_jr Conservante🇧🇪🇺🇸🇬🇧🇨🇭🇫🇷🇪🇸🇮🇩🇱🇺 (@lpjr25) April 12, 2020
Redditor TotallyNotASeagull uploaded another version of the meme on April 12th, 2020, to the r/dankmemes sub (shown below), receiving over 10,000 upvotes and 82 comments.
Another top tweet covering the disaster from BBC News (World) on Twitter shows numerous users replying with memes and reaction images relating the event to the end of the world. One example comes from user kennlebu, using the Coffin Dance meme, receiving over 1,000 likes and 129 retweets.
The news continued to spread to other websites online, appearing on 4chan when an anonymous user submitted a photo of the wildfires to the /pol/ board on April 14th, 2020. Various users then discussed the Chernobyl fires in the thread (seen below).