This story excerpt was translated from Portuguese. To read the original story in full, visit Amazônia Real. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.
Due to security concerns, authors Maria Alves, Amanda Lima, and Mário Rodrigues of Amazônia Real are publishing this story under pseudonyms.
SANTARÉM, Brazil—It was August 10, 2019 and the "Day of Fire," as the date became known, was one of the first warning signs that most Brazilians were unaware of. In less than 24 hours, the outbreaks of fires quadrupled in Novo Progresso (PA), provoked by a well-orchestrated group of farmers who combined the criminal action by Whatsapp. Nine days later, on August 19, the gigantic clouds of smoke reached the São Paulo capital, turning day into night. That time, it was impossible not to notice that something wrong was happening more than 2,000 kilometres away.
In the small village of Alter do Chão, volunteer fire-fighters were surprised to see that they had been noticed. With a wide network of contacts and followers in the Southeast region, they saw an online fundraising campaign jump from R$5,000 to R$20,000 in the days following the "Day of Fire." Among the donors was even the Public Ministry of Labour. The fundraising would be used for them to run a training course for new firefighters so they could fight the new fires that were sure to come. "When São Paulo was in the dark, money started coming from people because everyone was sad on Facebook saying that it was the end of the world and they were looking here, on our network, and we were the ones on the front," says firefighter Daniel Gutierrez.
One month later, on September 14, the Alter do Chão APA dawned in flames, taking over a region located between the urban zone of Santarém (PA) and the village of Alter do Chão. To try and control the fire, volunteer fire-fighters went in to help the Pará Military Fire Brigade. In the various parts of the world facing forest fires, people from civil society collaborate in fighting the fire and are welcome. In Bolsonaro's Brazil, they are arrested.