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News > Bolivia

Bolivia Continues Its Tenacious Fight Against Forest Fires

  • A wildfire in Bolivia, Nov. 15, 2023.

    A wildfire in Bolivia, Nov. 15, 2023. | Photo: X/ @olivaresvictorh

Published 15 November 2023

There are 13 active fires in Santa Cruz, with 2,327 heat sources detected. Additionally, 300,000 hectares are burned, of which 197,000 were protected areas.

Wildlife is fading amid the wildfires that are consuming thousands of hectares of forests and grasslands in Bolivia, like that of a urina or small deer, which firefighters found charred in the midst of the arid landscape where only ashes remain.


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Forest firefighters work for several hours to prevent the flames from advancing and taking more animal lives, especially in protected areas. In the eastern region of Santa Cruz, one of the three departments with active fires, they begin their workday very early, walking several kilometers to reach the fire.

Firefighters find anteaters or tapirs, foxes, and other animals; some approach humans in search of a bit of water. Sometimes, they only discover the charred corpses of animals, a situation that has become common. "What we are seeing is quite disastrous," said Rene Velasquez, the deputy governor of the Ñuflo de Chávez province.

Firefighters carry pickaxes, helmets, and some food. Sometimes, the situation complicates as the winds blow strongly, and the flames advance up to one kilometer per hour, said firefighter Jorge Adriazola.

The text says: "We are not going to spare efforts or resources to fight the fires and care for our affected families. Today, on its first day of activation, the Incident Command reinforced its work in Beni and the north of La Paz, bringing four tons of humanitarian aid, including food, supplies, tools and fuel to mobilize firefighters fighting the fire."

At times, the fire advances faster than the firefighters, who must be alert not to be "trapped" in the midst of the flames or open paths through the forest to reach the fires. They also employ a technique known as "revolcado," which involves using heavy machinery to clear the terrain and thus halt the fire.

The deputy governor mentioned that they have been working for 35 days mitigating around 40 kilometers of fire line. Despite efforts to contain the fires, it seems someone uses a plane to reignite them, forcing them to return to the area.

Most concerning for Velasquez is that the "significant" fires are in protected areas, such as the Copaibo municipal reserve, where there aren't even any roads. This is also happening in the municipal protected area of Bajo Paragua, located in the San Ignacio de Velasco municipality, and in the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park.

"We are quite concerned because it seems there is an intention to destroy forests," Velasquez denounced.

Currently, there are 13 active fires in Santa Cruz in at least eight municipalities, with 2,327 heat sources detected. Additionally, 300,000 hectares are burned, of which 197,000 were protected areas. Fires are also reported in nearby populations of the Madidi National Park, located in northwest Bolivia, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.

Recently, the department of Beni declared a state of emergency due to the fires, while the government created an Incident Command and launched a monitoring system for wildfires.

Given this situation, several environmental organizations have called for the repeal of regulations that have authorized controlled burns or 'chaqueos' in recent years, practiced in the field to prepare the land for planting.

Defense Minister Edmundo Novillo also expressed surprise at noting that when the fire is extinguished, "others take care to set it on fire" in a "vicious circle."

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