Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has ordered the armed forces to fight record forest fires in the Amazon, amid international outrage over rising deforestation.
This has notably prompted Bolivia to lease the world’s only 747 Supertanker, the world’s largest firefighting aircraft, which arrived in that country today to help combat the blazes.
— Global SuperTanker (@GlobalSuperTank) August 23, 2019
Though Brazilian authorities have not said what military units might be headed to help battle the fires raging in the Amazon, the country does have a dedicated Military Firefighters Corps. This is a reserve component adjacent to the country’s Army, which has some 50,000 members spread across Brazil’s states. These units have specialized equipment and could receive orders to pool their resources to better respond to priority areas.
Brazil’s Army, Navy, and Air Force, all have fleets of helicopters that could carry “bambi buckets” to conduct water bombing missions in remote or otherwise hard to reach areas, as well. Maybe its armed services’ most powerful firefighting weapon, the Brazilian Air Force has a limited number of Modular Aerial Firefighting Systems (MAFFS) that convert its C-130 Hercules airlifters into water bombers. You can read more about MAFFS in this past War Zone story.
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019
President Jair Bolsonaro deployed soldiers in nature reserves, indigenous lands and border areas beset by fires. The move is an apparent reversal from Mr Bolsonaro, who has been accused of emboldening miners and loggers.
Other countries had threatened to target Brazil’s economy if the nation did not act to stop the fires.
France and Ireland have said they will not ratify a large trade deal with South American nations and Finland’s finance minister has called on the EU to consider banning Brazilian beef imports.
Fires in the Brazilian Amazon are at a record high. Why? This climate scientist points to human-caused deforestation. pic.twitter.com/aDS7Vo5crB
— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 24, 2019
In a televised address to the nation, Mr Bolsonaro said forest fires “exist in the whole world” and “cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions”.
Many of the fires are thought to have been started deliberately, with suspicion falling on farmers who may benefit by having more available land.
Mr Bolsonaro has scorned environmental activists and declared staunch support for the clearing of areas of the Amazon for agriculture and mining. Experts and campaigners say his administration has given a green light to rainforest destruction.
Environmental groups held protests in cities across Brazil on Friday to demand action to combat the fires, and protesters gathered outside the Brazilian embassies around the world.