Amazon wildfires set to cause irreversible damage

By the end of the dry season, the fires in Brazil could spread to other untouched forest areas, threatening the survival of individual tree species. But it’s still too early to assess the full extent of the damage.

By Nadia Pontes

“We don’t know how many fire spots will jump from the farmland into the forest,” said Paulo Brando, an expert from the independent Brazilian-based Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM). “Currently, the satellites can only detect existing fires.”

For weeks, the fires in the Amazon rainforest have attracted international attention. Compared to 2018, the total number of fires increased by 82% between January and August this year. In August alone, almost 26,000 fires were reported.

‘Day of fire’

In the state of Para, where most of the fires are burning, prosecutors are investigating a group of farmers who organized a so-called ‘day of fire.’ On August 10 they reportedly set a number of fires on forest land — allegedly to show their support for President Jair Bolsonaro. As a result, satellite images observed an increase in fire sources.

The fires were first reported in local newspaper Folha do Progresso in the “Novo Progresso” community in the state’s south. “We have to show the president that we want to work, and that’s only possible with clearing and we need fire to clear away the deforested areas,” the newspaper quoted one of the organizers.