20 October, 2019 - Fires blaze in Chapada dos Veadeiros for more than a week. The Brazilian Army say that access to the area is “impossible” and attempts are being made to stop it from spreading.
Wildfires continue to burn throughout Chapada dos Veadeiros, a national park in central Brazil, as firefighters struggle to contain them. According to local authorities, several areas of the park remain in flames more than a week after it started. It comes weeks after wildfires in the Amazon rainforest in the north of Brazil sparked global outcry.
The army and local fire brigade managed to bring fires in Alto Paraiso de Goias, in the north of the national park where the wildfire originally started, under control. However, since Thursday (17), the flames have spread uncontrolled to other points across the reserve.
“The fire is in an extremely steep region that makes access there practically impossible,” lieutenant Paulo Santos, commander of the military unit, told Brazilian news outlet G1. “Our focus now is to protect the neighboring properties and to stop the fire from spreading further.”
The cause of the fire is currently unknown yet Fernando Tatagiba, the park manager, claims it was a criminal act, according to G1. Although the area is dry at this time of year, it isn’t affected by natural wildfires, said Tatagiba, before adding, “100 percent of fires in the dry Cerrado region is caused by man.” The Federal Police have opened a criminal investigation into the origin of the fire, yet no suspects have been identified.
Firefighters said it’s not possible to estimate the extent of the damage of the park’s second wildfire this year. The first was at the end of September when fires destroyed nearly 15 thousand acres of land until they were brought under control six days after they started.
The Chapada dos Veadeiros spans an area of more than 741 thousand acres of land in the central state of Goias and is the largest area of conservation of Cerrado (a tropical savanna ecoregion) in the world. It’s an area of significant biological importance and is home to armadillos, jaguars, toucans and several species of orchids.
The wildfires in Chapada dos Veadeiros national park is a blow for the Brazilian government who was severely criticized by world leaders and wildlife protection organizations for their slow response to the fires in the Amazon. Thousands of uncontrolled fires destroyed nearly eight thousand kilometers squared of Amazon rainforest, the worst wildfire in the region since 2005.
The fires started in September and continue to burn until now. It’s widely thought that local farmers and loggers started the fires to clear land for crops or grazing, although Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro blamed local NGOs. He has not commented on the wildfires in Chapada dos Veadeiros.