LA PAZ (Reuters) – Wildfires are sweeping across Bolivia’s Pantanal wetlands near the border with Paraguay, putting at risk thousands of hectares of an area known for its rich wildlife that was hit by major fires just two years ago.
The blazes have already damaged some 2,200 hectares (5,400 acres). Firefighters are trying to douse the flames, which are spreading in long lines across grassland and forest.
Alejandra Sandoval, environment secretary for the lowland Santa Cruz province, said that efforts to put out the flames were complicated by the rich plant life of the Pantanal that can easily burn.
“This site has a mattress-like vegetation, in which embers remain at the bottom. And so the fires can come back to life at any moment. So it’s necessary that we keep going until the fires are totally put out.”
In 2019, widespread fires ravaged the lowland area’s Chiquitano forest, a biodiverse region home for centuries to many Bolivian indigenous groups, prompting protests demanding government action.
Santa Cruz’s fire prevention coordinator Yovenka Rosado said that everyone available to help had been sent to the area to fight the fires.
“More than 2,000 hectares have been damaged. And it should be clear that this is a fire that is continuing. Every day we will tally up the impact,” she said.
(Reporting by Monica Machicao and Santiago Limachi; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)