Regional South America Wildland
FireManagement Network

ARegion of the Global Wildland Fire Network

                              Fighting fires in the Amazon

                                    Spanish   –    English

Perhaps it could be difficult for many people to imagine the damage caused by fires in the Amazon, as well as understanding the details and full extent of the implications.

Rapidly and categorically, the forest is losing its natural and cultural values, as a direct result of human actions.

Something more than fires
Since the arrival of the first European in the Amazon, the implicit knowledge in each leaf and gram of earth has been underestimated. Historically, the intrinsic values of ecosystems, the established indigenous nations and their ancestral territories were also not known.

Of some concern, this lack of understanding continues today amongst a majority of people, including descendants and natives who adopt a life of deliberate consumerism, overwhelmed by unfounded needs.

Encouraged, incorrectly, to apply new and pseudo development models, these people undertake a systematic “cleaning”, primarily by fire, of vast areas of forest vegetation, strictly for commercial production.

Critically and painfully transforming life, landscapes, knowledge and culture. Characteristics that certainly will not have more value someday.
With the great amount of unfounded needs being generated inside and outside the Amazonian region comes many more direct and in-direct impacts. These frequently materialise in great fires.

In regards to this, it is the direct responsibility of all. A true adjustment in our models and perceptions and acceptance of global responsibility for the problems is needed. Failure to adjust in the short term will surely lead only to uncertain outcomes.

Finally, it is up to us to show the terrible impacts fire has had on the ecosystems and their inhabitants. With fire, not only are life, species and environmental services lost, but also precious culture.

Fighting Amazonian fires always was and always will be the direct result of a simple cause: the lack of value placed on ecosystems and life in all it’s manifestations, including our own humanity.

About the photos
While Park Rangers were undertaking training in the state of Amapá-Brazil, taking their lunch break in temperatures in excess of 40 degrees, they received a warning of fire in the area. This intentionally lit fire posed a risk not only to the vegetation cover and the fauna that lived there, but also to the life and culture of some poor families with their modest houses and subsistence practices nearby.

The group of Park Rangers had only recently undertaken training in fire fighting and the question was posed: what do we do? The unanimous response of the students and their instructors: “let’s go to extinguish it!!”

Thus it was, more by will than the necessary equipment to combat a fire, we initiated the battle at midday, right at the worse hour. Indeed the flames spread quickly due to the air and high temperature and one felt heat that was unbearable for the body.

With flames of great heights, the fire rapidly devastated and turned to ashes 3 hectares. It had come dangerously near to structures and traditional plantations of “coqueros” (coconuts). Rationally, there seemed to be no option for control, exacerbated by the fire already entering a zone where combat would be impossible, due to the density of the vegetation and the amount of dry matter available.

Opportunely we conducted battle, very motivated and relying on organisation and abundant prudence. We had no water, shovels, nor specialised implements. But while some cut branches, others did what they could organised on the front line of the fire with what they had at hand. Much smoke was inhaled, but anger and determination was also in the air. Between the 35 people involved, motivation was constant.

Because of the smoke, high temperatures, danger from the flames, the great size of the fire, lack of water and implements, we thought it could not be possible. Yet the hopes of some arose from the front line where we maintained direct combat. Step by step, we started to dominate the situation.
After the intense combat, when all smoke was extinguished and the tasks totally concluded, a detachment of firemen arrived.
Happily our team of protectors had realised their contribution in a very efficient and professional way.

To have the opportunity of such a powerful experience with positive results next to colleagues was very rewarding. Neighbouring houses and structures, subsistence plants, native vegetation and the ecological niches of some species were safe.

But, till when will we have to continue fighting fires?





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