Over 540,000 volunteers join firefighters ranks in Russia

The first national congress of volunteer firefighters opened in Pyatigorsk in the southern Stavropol territory on Friday.

More than 200 volunteers have gathered, an Interfax correspondent reported. "Over 540,000 people have joined the ranks of volunteer firefighters, forming a large force in standby readiness to help," the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry's chief military expert Pavel Plat told the press.

Volunteers have saved more than 350 human lives already, he said. "The task set now is to bring this volunteer force to 800,000 as a minimum, which is the smallest number needed to protect citizens from fires," Plat said.

Congresses of volunteer firefighters will be held each year. Competitions will be organized as part of such congresses to demonstrate volunteers' readiness, he said.

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