Massive blaze in São Paulo mountains rages for five days

. Jul 21, 2020
serra mantiqueira fires blaze Photo: CBMMG

A blaze is tearing its way through the landscape of the Serra da Mantiqueira mountain range in Brazil’s Southeast, burning for five straight days and destroying 490 hectares of forest, an area equivalent to 530 football pitches. The region destroyed by the blaze lies close to the triple border between the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro — Brazil’s most populous and wealthiest. The flames have even reached the Pedra da Mina mountain, the fourth highest in the country.

Fire brigades from São Paulo and Minas Gerais have struggled to combat the blaze due to the topography of the region, with its steep rock faces and dense forest. On Tuesday afternoon, crews are attempting to put out flames on the southern face of Pedra da Mina, where fighting fire on land is unfeasible.

</p> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="650" height="437" src="" alt="fires serra mantiqueira blaze brazil" class="wp-image-44905" srcset=" 650w, 300w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 650px) 100vw, 650px" /><figcaption>Military firefighter at the Pedra da Mina mountain. Photo: CBMMG</figcaption></figure> <p>The firefighters are relying on aircraft from the Army, Navy and State Forestry Institute of Minas Gerais. &#8220;Ground combat is impossible. There&#8217;s no way our military can go up there. That&#8217;s why we have to use helicopters and airplanes,&#8221; said Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Alberto de Camargo Junior, the commander of the operation.</p> <p>Weather conditions have helped the fire to spread. Besides low levels of humidity, the Serra da Mantiqueira is undergoing a drought, which is very common at this time of year. Furthermore, firefighters have had to contend with subzero temperatures. On both Monday and Tuesday, thermometers fell to -3°C at dawn. One of the main centers of the blaze was extinguished on Monday night.&nbsp;</p> <h2>A major operation in the mountains</h2> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="683" src="" alt="fires mantiqueira" class="wp-image-44906" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 1536w, 610w, 1920w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>Photo: Still from MGTV</figcaption></figure> <p>The operation in the Serra da Mantiqueira involves 107 firefighters and 37 trucks, as well as the two helicopters and one personnel transport aircraft, totalling 116 people working to battle the flames in the mountains. The Armed Forces provided four aircraft, including a Hercules-130 equipped with firefighting equipment, dousing large quantities of water on the blaze.</p> <p>Almost 500 kilometers long, the Serra da Mantiqueira is one of Brazil’s most important mountain ranges, originally covered by native Atlantic Forest. Due to its natural beauty and cold climate, the mountain region is a much sought-after <a href="">tourist attraction</a>, with popular getaways such as Campos do Jordão, in São Paulo, and Monte Verde, in Minas Gerais.</p> <p>In the state of São Paulo alone, the fire brigade has recorded almost 17,500<a href=""> forest fires</a> so far this year. The majority are caused by humans, often by littering of cigarette ends, metallic objects, and glass bottles tossed at the side of highways. The origins of the fire in the Serra da Mantiqueira, however, remain unclear.

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Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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