From: Associated Press
Published August 11, 2005 12:00 AM

Agricultural Fires Jump by 60 Percent in Brazilian Amazon State

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — The number of fires in a large Amazon state has jumped by nearly 60 percent, stirring fears of a destructive burning season, environmental officials said Wednesday.


Satellite photos detected some 7,200 fires in the Amazon state of Para from January through July, up from 4,500 over the same period last year, according to the government's National Institute for Space Research.


Most of the fires were intentional, set by ranchers seeking to clear their land of jungle brush and to replenish the region's poor soil, officials said.


Across the country, the number of fires has fallen, with 32,000 fires detected this year as compared with 43,600 during the same period last year. But the fires have stirred concern among environmental officials because the official burning season only begins in September and many farmers were ignoring the prohibition.


Officials warned it was too early to say whether the general decrease will result in reduced destruction since most of the country's agricultural burning takes place after September.


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"August is just starting and there's no way to predict what's going to happen," Dr. Alberto Setzer, a researcher at the space research institute told reporters.


Humid rainforest rarely burns, but selective logging has degraded much of the once-vibrant rainforest making it more vulnerable to agricultural fires that spread out of control.


Brazil is responsible for about 73 percent of the burning that occurs in South America. The fires are the No. 1 cause of air pollution in Brazil.


Source: Associated Press


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