Brazil struggles to control Amazon wildfires Friday, 14 March 2003
BRASILIA, Brazil Brush fires raging out of control in far northernBrazil are threatening to move into the rain forest, authorities said Thursday.Dozens of small fires have destroyed more than 40 square miles (100 squarekilometers) of pasture land, environmental officials said. Four Amazon townshave declared a state of calamity. “We are doing everything we can to keepthe fire out of the forest,” said Environment Minister Marina Silva. About180 firefighting experts and five helicopters were sent to northern Roraimastate, 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) northwest of Brasilia, the capital, saidBrazil’s Environmental Protection Agency, known as Ibama. They will join some500 firefighters and an unspecified number of army soldiers. The lack of waterin the region forced firefighters to carry pumps in backpacks and to try tocontain the blaze with beaters, hoes, shovels, machetes, and chain saws. Brazilreportedly declined offers of help from the United States, Canada, and Spain.”There is no need for this kind of support because we have helicopters inBrazil with a capacity to carry 1,500 liters (about 400 gallons),” FlavioMontiel, head of Ibama’s environmental protection division, said in an interviewwith the daily Folha de S. Paulo. Brush fires occur annually in much ofthe Amazon, as farmers clear land and renew pasture. This year, El Niño reducedrainfall in Roraima, and fires burned out of control through the tinder-dryscrub.