Photos: major wildfires have ignited across Europe, Asia, and Latin America

22 August 2019

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GLOBAL – The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest tropical forest. It’s home to 30 million people and hosts the largest concentration of biodiversity on the planet. It’s quenched by the largest river in the world. It makes 20 percent of the oxygen on Earth. It holds upward of 140 billion metric tons of carbon. And right now, it’s burning.

Across its 550 million hectares (one hectare is about the size of two soccer fields), more than 74,000 fires have started in the Amazon this year to date, an 84 percent surge from the year before, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Fires are a natural part of many ecosystems, but not in the Amazon, where they are an almost entirely human-caused phenomenon. Farmers use slash-and-burn tactics to clear forest areas for crops. Illegal loggers and miners set fires to cover their tracks. In several instances, they have ignited blazes to drive indigenous people off their land.

The fires in the Amazon have now been burning for more than two weeks. Their smoke has spread across Brazil and shrouded the country’s biggest cities. Locals posted photos of flames, soot-darkened skies, and blackened water on social media:

While alarming, they’re not the only blazes shrouding huge swaths of land in smoke.

More than 9,000 people were evacuated as flames spread this week across Spain’s Canary Islands. Wildfires also ignited this week in Alaska. Denmark dispatched firefighters to Greenland to control fires burning close to population centers. Major wildfires have also burned through Siberia, and environmental activists expect them to set a new record for burn area in Russia by the end of the season.

Part of the reason for these recent fires is the heat. This past July was the hottest July on record. Many parts of Europe shattered heat records: France, Germany, Poland, Spain, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom. That heat dried out vegetation and left huge swaths of forests and grasslands primed to ignite.

As the climate changes, periods of extreme heat will get longer, more frequent, and more intense. Years of actively suppressing natural fires have allowed trees, grasses, and shrubs to accumulate at unnatural levels in many parts of the world. Deforestation has disrupted the natural water cycle in some regions, causing the remaining undergrowth to dry out. And as people build their homes closer to wildlands, the likelihood of setting off an inferno will only rise.

Make no mistake: Humans are worsening the devastation from wildfires. Here are some of the scenes of destruction around the world taken this month.


Flames rise from a forest fire near the village of Makrimalli on the island of Evia, northeast of Athens, on August 13, 2019.
Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images
A firefighter operates to extinguish a wildfire on Hymettus mountain in Athens on August 12, 2019.
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images
Hundreds of villagers were evacuated from the island of Evia, on August 13, 2019. The Greek prime minister canceled an upcoming vacation to the island as scores of firefighters battled a major wildfire.
Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images
According to local authorities, four firefighting planes from Croatia and Italy would be deployed on August 14, after Greece requested EU assistance.
Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images
A state of emergency was declared on the island of Evia, and several villages have been evacuated, displacing hundreds of residents.
Milos Bicanski/Getty Images
A farmer tries to save his goat during a forest fire in the village of Makrimalli on the island of Evia, northeast of Athens, on August 14, 2019.
Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images
Firemen prepare to cut fallen trees in the aftermath of a wildfire on the island of Evia, northeast of Athens, on August 14, 2019.
Louisa Gouliamakia/AFP/Getty Images


A fire began on August 10 in the town of Artenara and has destroyed up to 1,500 hectares of forest on Spain’s Grand Canary Island, seen here on August 17, 2019.
Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images
A fire on the Spanish island, a popular holiday destination, forced evacuations of the area and has been dubbed an “environmental tragedy.”
Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images
Flames rise from a forest fire raging in Montana Alta on the island of Gran Canaria, on August 18, 2019.
Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images
Smoke billows from a forest fire raging in Montana Alta on the island of Gran Canaria.
Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images
A view of burnt farmhouses following the wildfires on Spain’s island of Gran Canaria on August 21, 2019.
Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images


A fire rages in the Karabaglar district of Turkey’s Izmir province on August 19, 2019.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Forest fires have consumed some 500 hectares (more than 1,200 acres) of land in Izmir on Turkey’s Aegean coast.
Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
According to Turkey’s Agriculture and Forest Ministry, fires broke out in four regions, including two in the southwestern Mugla province and others in Izmir province.
Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
An aerial view of the aftermath where Kavacik grapes are grown.
Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Indonesian firefighters tried to extinguish a 139-hectare peatland fire at Ogan Ilir, located in the South Sumatra province of Indonesia, on August 6, 2019.
Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Forest fires burning throughout Indonesia have promoted six provinces to declare a state of emergency.
Bagus Kurniawan/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Forest fires caused parts of Sumatra to be covered with haze, which extended to Singapore and Malaysia.
Barcroft Media via Getty Images
View of the fire’s aftermath in Meulaboh, Acheh, Indonesia, on August 8, 2019.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images


People look at a wildfire burning in the countryside around Vauvert, southern France, on August 2, 2019.
Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images
An airplane drops water to put out the forest fire that rages near the village of Monze in southern France on August 15, 2019. According to local fire services, as of August 15, the fire had already destroyed 900 hectares of pine forest in southern France.
Raymond Roig/AFP/Getty Images
A fire fanned by a strong wind devours vegetation near the village of Monze, in southern France, on August 15, 2019.
Raymond Roig/AFP/Getty Images


A view of a forest fire in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk territory, where more than 1 million hectares of woodland have been hit by wildfires, on August 4, 2019.
Donat Sorokin/TASS via Getty Images
An employee of the Russian Aerial Forest Protection Service (Avialesookhrana) battles a forest fire in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk territory.
Avialesookhrana/TASS vis Getty Images
Trees seen collapsing during the fire in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk territory.
Avialesookhrana/TASS vis Getty Images
The city of Ulan-Ude, in East Siberia, was covered in smoke from the Siberian forest fires.
Andrei Ogorodnik/TASS via Getty Images
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