Photos show how 'fire warriors' are still fighting fires in the ravaged Amazon Rainforest

Juan Karita / APA marine is silhouetted against a raging fire in the Chiquitania Forest in Santa Rosa de Tucabaca, on the outskirts of Robore, Bolivia, on August 28.
  • Though the fires aren’t as bad as they were in August, the Amazon Rainforest is still burning.
  • In October, The Washington Post reported on a group of “elite” local firefighters, battling fires in Mato Gross, in the Amazon. There, local, well-trained firefighters are covering hundreds of miles each day to contain the fires.
  • They’re not alone. In Brazil, 44,000 soldiers were deployed to fight the fires, while Bolivia deployed 5,000.
  • The decrease in fires is partly because of the war firefighters have waged against the flames. Rain has helped, too.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Firefighters are still trying to stop the fires that have ravaged much of the Amazon Rainforest.

The Washington Post reported on a group of “elite” local firefighters, known as the “guerreiros de fogo” or “fire warriors,” who are still fighting fires in Mato Gross, Brazil.

Led by former US Army paratrooper John Carter, these local, well-trained firefighters cover hundreds of miles each day putting out or containing fires. And they’re making a difference.

They’re also not the only ones fighting fires in the Amazon. In Brazil, after international condemnation about the state of the rainforest, President Jair Bolsonaro sent in 44,000 troops to douse fires at the end of August.

Bolivia also 5,000 soldiers to fight the forest fires in its chunk of the Amazon.

Here’s what it’s like for the “fire warriors” on the frontlines.


In August, Brazil’s rainforest was burning the most since 2010. At one point, 31,000 fires were burning …

ReutersAmazon rainforest burning.

Sources: Reuters, Washington Post, Independent


… which created a 1.2 million-square-mile layer of smoke.

Leo Correa / APA Brazilian soldier fights fires at the Nova Fronteira region in Novo Progresso, Brazil, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.

Source: Independent


After facing intense scrutiny from the international community, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro agreed to send in 44,000 troops to fight the fires at the end of August.

Leo Correa / APBrazilian soldiers walk over a burnt out area as they move to fight fires on September 3, 2019.

Sources: HuffPost, Independent


By September, the number of fires burning had fallen to 20,000 β€” a six year low. It’s unusual, because September is usually when fires increase. For comparison, 24,500 fires burned in September 2018.

Aizar Raldes / AFP / GettyA firefighter tries to control a fire near Charagua, Bolivia, in the border with Paraguay, south of the Amazon basin, on August 29, 2019.

Sources: Reuters, Washington Post


And it’s likely that the decrease is a mix of Brazil’s military fighting the fires and more rain, Maria Silva Dias, a professor and forest fire expert at the University of Sao Paulo, told Reuters.

Gustavo Basso / NurPhoto / GettyMembers of the IBAMA forest fire brigade fight burning in the Amazon, on September 3, 2019.

Source: Reuters


Fires, many of which were started on purpose to clear land for farming, have burned indiscriminately β€” in parks, ranches, government land, and indigenous land. At the end of August, Bolsonaro also issued a 60-day ban on starting fires.

Gustavo Basso / NurPhoto / GettyMembers of the IBAMA forest fire brigade (named Prevfogo) fight burning in the Amazon.

Sources: Washington Post, CNN


Here, a firefighter from the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) attempts to control the direction of the fire on indigenous land in September.

Bruno Kelly / ReutersIBAMA fire brigade members attempt to control hot points during a fire on September 15, 2019.

Source: Washington Post


Another member of IBAMA fire brigades extinguishes the smouldering remains of a fire here. Before the fires broke out this year, Bolsonaro spoke about shutting down the organisation, because he wanted forested regions to be developed. The government still sent them in, though, and barred members from speaking to the media.

Gustavo Basso / NurPhoto / GettyMembers of the IBAMA forest fire brigade (named Prevfogo) fight burning in the Amazon, on September 3, 2019..

Sources: Reuters, ABC News


Some of the firefighters wield eight-foot poles with mats attached to the end, and slap them down on the fires. Or they shoot water from hoses attached to water tanks, like a “child’s Super Soaker,” ABC News reported.

Leo Correa / APA Brazilian soldier fights fires at the Nova Fronteira region in Novo Progresso, Brazil, on September 3, 2019.

Source: ABC News


They use all of the tools they have on hand. Water bags are refilled from nearby streams …

Leo Correa / APBrazilian soldier refill their water bags, on September 3, 2019.

… dirt is shoveled on to fires to suffocate them …

Juan Karita / APA police works to put out a fire in the Chiquitania forest on the outskirts of Robore, Bolivia, on August 30, 2019.

… and from the sky, fighter jets dump water and fire retardant onto fires. The Brazilian government also hired a Boeing 747-400, which is capable of dropping 19,000 gallons per trip, to assist.

Brazil Ministry of Defence / APA C-130 Hercules aircraft dumps water to fight fires burning in the Amazon rainforest, in Brazil, on August 24, 2019.

Source: CNN


But for the most part, firefighters’ tools are rudimentary. And the Amazon is so large that firefighters can’t stop many of the fires.

David Mercado / ReutersVolunteers throw sand on fire, on August 31, 2019.

Source: Reuters


In Bolivia, at least 4.2 million acres of forest have burned. The government sent in 5,000 troops to battle the fires, and said it has spent $US20 million on the fight.

Edgard Garrido / ReutersFirefighters from Bolivia’s army patrol an area where wildfires have destroyed hectares of forest at Rancho Grande village in Robore, Bolivia, on September 24, 2019.

Sources: The New York Times, CNN


The fires became so bad Bolivian President Evo Morales put his re-election campaign on hold to fight the fires. Despite his firsthand efforts to help, environmentalists have criticised him for passing laws that encourage slash and burning to make room for farmland.

Aizar Raldes / AFP / GettyBolivian President Evo Morales helps firefighters try to control a fire, on August 29, 2019.

Sources: NPR, The Guardian


Some volunteer firefighters in Bolivia worked by night to keep cool, and to be able to see the fires more clearly.

Juan Karita / APA marine drinks water silhouetted against a raging fire, on August 28, 2019.

Source: The Guardian


Here, it’s police and military working as a group to stop a fire, but farmers, accountants, and construction workers have also made up the crews fighting Bolivia’s fires. Often, they’re doing it with donated gear, including fire hoses that are full of holes.

Juan Karita / APPolice and firefighters work to put out a fire in Bolivia, on August 30, 2019.

Source: NPR


It’s dangerous work. A volunteer named Andres Manaca was nearly trapped by fires twice over an eight-day period he spent fighting them. At one point he was in a group of volunteers who had to flee as the fire came for them. β€œIt was violent, like lightning,” he told The Guardian.

David Mercado / ReutersA man fights wildfires in Santa Monica near Concepcion, Bolivia, September 21, 2019.

Source: The Guardian


And it’s not always a rewarding job, in the traditional sense. One firefighter chief told ABC News he was aware fighting the flames was futile, but if they could save a few things, it was worth it.

Gaston Brito / ReutersA firefighter throws water towards an area on fire as wildfires destroy hectares of forest, in Santa Rosa de Tucavaca, Bolivia, on August 30.

Source: ABC News


Not everyone thinks firefighters have made a difference. Retired colonel Angelo Robelo, who has fought poachers and monitored fires in the Amazon for 30 years, told ABC News only mother nature could make a difference.

Aizar Raldes / AFP / GettyFirefighters try to control a fire near Charagua, Bolivia on August 29, 2019.

Source: ABC News


But it appears they have made an impact. Bolivia’s armed forces commander said there was no plan to withdraw the troops. So for now, the firefighters will continue on.

Juan Karita / APFirefighters work to put out a fire.

Source: The New York Times


And soldiers, like this one, will continue to monitor the progress of one of the worst years for Amazon Rainforest fires in recent history.

Edgard Garrido / ReutersA firefighter from Bolivia’s army climbs a tree to watch the fire as he patrols an area where wildfires have destroyed hectares of forest, on September 24, 2019.

Source: The New York Times

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