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Amazon fires: What about Bolivia? From the frontlines: Fighting Bolivia’s forest fires Amazon fires: What about Bolivia? From the frontlines: Fighting Bolivia’s forest fires Amazon fires: What about Bolivia? From the frontlines: Fighting Bolivia’s forest fires Amazon fires: What about Bolivia? From the frontlines: Fighting Bolivia’s forest fires
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Rapid response: Firefighters battling catastrophic wildfires in Bolivia






Severe Wildfires
Hit the Bolivian Lowlands

Bolivia, October 15, 2019

Forest Fire Emergency | Travel Alert | Situation Report

Rain puts out some of Bolivia's huge forest fires - update

BOLIVIA - Heavy rains have drenched eastern Bolivia's Chiquitania tropical savanna, putting out most of the fires that have ravaged millions of hectares in recent weeks.

However, strong sun and high temperatures are expected to return to the region over the coming days, raising the risk of fires ahead. As a consequence, there is no immediate plan to withdraw about 5,000 troops that have been sent to battle the worst fires Bolivia has had over the last two decades.

Ongoing forest fires began in May and intensified in late August, reaching 8 protected areas. The majority of fires are in protected natural areas and in the dry Chiquitanía forests. This unique ecosystem in eastern Bolivia is sandwiched between the Amazon and the Gran Chaco and has borne the brunt of weeks of fires.

Like the fires happening in Brazil and elsewhere in the world, the new magnitude of Bolivia’s blazes is largely due to burning on newly deforested land. The situation changes rapidly and unpredictably, and many fires are presently far from under control. The burnt region also encompasses farmland and villages, with thousands of people evacuated and many more affected by the smoke.

Heavy rains over recent days in the Bolivian Amazon have helped douse most of the forest fires that have raged for two months, charring nearly 5M hectares of land in the Bolivian Amazon, the Chiquitanía and the Bolivian Pantanal, with devastating consequences.

According to data from the local authorities and the Bolivian government, to date, nearly 5,000 families in 18 municipalities in Santa Cruz province are affected. Bolivia has seen fires rage across 4.5 million hectares, of which 2.2 million are from protected areas, while strong winds (up to 90 km/hour) and high temperatures (up to 40ºC) are also expected in the coming days according to Servicio Nacional de Meteorología e Hidrología SENAMHI (Bolivia's National Weather Service).

Travel alert

Travel to affected areas is severely restricted

Needless to say, transport and movements in these areas have been severely restricted. Please contact us for regular updates about your upcoming tour to the Amazon Basin and the Eastern Lowlands in Bolivia.

Air travel disruptions: The no fly zone currently includes the area east of Santa Cruz, the Jesuit Missions, the Chiquitanía area, and the Pantanal.  We recommend that you defer or reconsider travelling to these areas.


Credit: Santa Cruz Department 
Civil Defense, staff of Intervention

The Bolivian government has already hired some of the largest firefighting planes in the world (including a Boeing 747 "Supertanker" from the U.S. and Russian "Ilyushin" IL-76), and a fleet of smaller ones to assist in the anti-wildfire effort.

Thousands of firefighters, park rangers, state employees, and volunteers are fighting the fires on the front lines. There has also been international assistance — neighboring Argentina deployed firefighters to help, Peru sent helicopters, and the United States sent tools and equipment for 2,000 firefighters to Bolivia. France, Belgium and other countries are also providing technical support and field personnel.

The operation has contributed to limit the fires and to prevent them from getting into the communities in the area. Despite great effort, reactivation of hot spots in some municipalities, particularly those in rural areas, has hindered the ability to control and curb the extension of the fires.

In this context, the population faces challenges to engage in their habitual daily actions, cope with the emergency and protect their homes, crops, livestock while aiming to prevent the advance of the fire.

Bolivia's forests cover a total of 51.407 million hectares (127.03 million acres), including the Chiquitano dry forests which is part of the Amazon biome and a transition zone between the Amazon rainforest and the drier forests of the southern Chaco region.

Fires are leaving blackened trees and ash-covered forest floors in their wake. Distressing photographs and videos from the area show many animals have burned to death in the recent fires.

The website of Bolivia's Santa Cruz region describes finding charred animals in its devastated lands, and others desperately searching for food and water.

The Chiquitano dry forest in Bolivia was the largest healthy tropical dry forest in the world. It is now unclear whether it will retain that status. The forest is home to indigenous peoples as well as iconic wildlife such as jaguars, giant armadillos, and tapirs. Some species in the Chiquitanía are found nowhere else on Earth.

More reports are expected in the coming days.

(Data credit: ABI/Defensa Civil | October 15, 2019)

External links:

• Maps & Infographics: Wildfires and Hostspots in Eastern Bolivia

• Online summary and more references at the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) NASA-funded NGO Project and Coordination System

• Download the Report of Cumulative Monthly Fire Counts

• See also the Fire Report for Bolivia of the Global Forest Watch Fires / World Resources Institute website

• Download the OCHA Report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA Services / Humanitarian Response)

• Bolivia page on ReliefWeb and NASA websites

• Download the Report from the Red Cross

• See also Infographic from SATIF (Sistema de Alerta Temprana de Incendios Forestales), Santa Cruz, Bolivia (in Spanish)



Bolivia battles widespread fires as Brazil's Amazon crisis captures world attention.

Wildfires in Bolivia - see map here (Reuters)

Large, severe, wildland fires are major threats to property, lives, and ecosystem integrity. These wildfires increase the likelihood of adverse impacts at both local and landscape level, but fires are a regular feature of the dry season in this part of South America.

The Amazon spans eight countries, including Bolivia. The majority of the forest is in Brazil, where a massive increase in blazing fires has caused international concern. But it’s not just Brazil’s Amazon rainforest that’s ablaze — Bolivian fires intensify and are threatening people and wildlife.

Many fires are set by Bolivian farmers trying to clear brush (known as 'chaqueo') and fire activity varies considerably from year-to-year and month-to-month, driven by changes in economic conditions and climate.

The fire season in the southern Amazon runs from June to November, with peak burning activity in September along the eastern and southern Amazon forest frontiers.

But this year has been different. 2019 stands out because it has brought a noticeable increase in large, intense, and persistent fires burning along major roads in eastern Bolivia. Blazes in Bolivia’s Chiquitano dry forest and in the southern Amazon region at large have been far larger, and more widespread, than in previous seasons.

Thousands hit by vast fires, many homeless

Preliminary estimates of Bolivia's Department of Civil Protection (Dirección de Defensa Civil) indicate that more than 5,000 households are currently experiencing hunger and food insecurity.

Many families are currently being sheltered in emergency camps, where they receive food, medical assistance and wherever possible, school lessons are continuing. However, many communities have been completely cut off by the fires, and it has been impossible to get aid to them.

The emergency in the Bolivian lowlands means thousands of people have to flee their homes and are at severe risk of disease.

While Bolivia has been actively fighting the fires, they are still spreading. In some areas the situation is critical and could get worse in the next weeks. The central government has yet to declare a national disaster, while environmentalists are urging the presidential office to do so.

Food, water and relief supplies

We want to do our part to give back and make a positive impact in communities.

We are currently undertaking emergency relief efforts in conjunction with local government authorities and community groups, focusing efforts on the affected areas of eastern Bolivia.

In coordination with Bolivian authorities, FTB has been providing equipment and firefighting tools, and has deployed a team to support response efforts and provide first aid kits and water supplies to the local communities, volunteers and firefighters in affected areas.

FTB is also partnering with a number of local organizations, all working to make a significant difference to our work. We've teamed up with fellow tour operators, airlines and hotels in Bolivia.

Our commitment to ongoing relief and recovery efforts in affected areas includes donations of hundreds of cases of food and beverages to local government authorities and community groups, along with personal protective equipment and firefighting tools as well as medicine.

Credit: Fundación de voluntarios de salvamento
y rescate G.E.O.S / Bolivia

New shelters continue to be established and local authorities are in the process of setting up child care services to provide continuing support and solidarity with the populations concerned.

Despite our efforts, however, emergency-affected populations require more donations, including foodstuffs, kitchen utensils, and medicines among others.

Also, roads in the worst-hit departments of Santa Cruz (eastern Bolivia) have been blocked by the fire, hampering our charity campaign, and there are few helicopters to help distribute food.

Therefore, in addition to initiatives funded through our efforts, we are partnering to strengthen communities in other ways — e.g. through our alliance with Bolivian airlines and the Bolivian Hotel & Lodging Association (CBH).

FTB salutes the tireless efforts of Bolivian firefighters, military personnel, and citizen volunteers to defend their communities and protect Bolivia’s biodiversity.

Humanitarian/Disaster Relief — Emergency Response

Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) - Bolivia

Together we can save people's lives.

Disaster-affected populations require
food, water, shelter and medicine

If you wish to support our disaster relief and emergency response efforts, please consider carefully how you can partner with us to make a difference. Contact us for details.

We require help for immediate relief — drinking water, respirator masks (N95 or P100 types), emergency shelters/camp sites, hygiene/protective kits and nutritional food packages mainly.

In a future stage we will need additional help for house repairs & reconstruction, post-fire tree regeneration, etc.

Fremen Tours Bolivia - Destination Management Company

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