The fire that consumes the forests of Minas and the smoke that turns the blue of the sky to gray, more and more recurrent and serious, already surpass the combat capacity of the Fire Department of Minas Gerais. The high number of occurrences, added to the shortage of personnel, overloads the troops, makes the presence of brigadiers and volunteers indispensable and ends up causing slowness in meeting demands. To get an idea of the size of the challenge, today, the corporation has about 5,500 military personnel across the state. And, only in September, these men and women had to go out of their way to attend to no less than 4,817 occurrences, considering only forest fires.
In an extremely critical period for the advance of the flames, with an increase of almost a quarter in forest fires in Minas Gerais between August and September, the State of Minas highlights, in a series of reports that began today, the difficulties that these warriors, professionals, but also volunteers, face in the line of fire. A challenge that would not be so great were it not for the hand of the human being himself, who is estimated to be behind 90% of the fires.
While they are required to quell the flames in green areas, the routine occurrences that require the action of firefighters do not stop. Prevention, pre-hospital care, search and rescue, traffic accidents, social defense, fire fighting in real estate … There are about 30 thousand occurrences attended by the corporation per month. Forest fires represent 12% of this total.
With the high demand, the population itself suffers, who successively complain about the delay in service. In recent weeks, the State of Minas Gerais has registered the dissatisfaction of complaints from volunteers and residents neighboring the areas affected by the fire. In Lapinha da Serra, Serra da Moeda, Serra do Cipó, Nova União and even the Santa Cruz neighborhood in Belo Horizonte, there were complaints about the long wait until the military arrived. Faced with the situation, neighbors join with garden hoses and even buckets of water to try to reduce the flames.
SIMULTANEOUS FOCUSES But this slow response does not occur due to the corporation’s unwillingness or sloppiness. Many factors are involved, among them the skyrocketing occurrences, which leaves all vehicles engaged, as described by Lieutenant Leonan Soares Pereira, of the Battalion of Environmental Emergencies and Disaster Response (Bemad), who heads the fight against various outbreaks in the state. “There is a lot more fire this year,” says the military fireman, comparing the situation with the new coronavirus pandemic. “Everyone started to understand how to ‘flatten’ the curve. If all fires happen at the same time, it is impossible to put a fireman to put everything out. ”
Despite the fact that the majority of the military engage the streets and allow vacations of only 5% of the staff at this time of year, much of the control is in the hands of the population. According to the military, the low humidity of the air and the highest temperatures in history, combined with the lack of common sense, provide the fuel that feeds the fires. “The climatic condition worsened together with the bad habits of the human being. This causes a fire that we would put out in days to go on for weeks, ”he says. In the meantime, firefighters are required to establish a scale of priorities in care. In order, it contemplates coping with fires that threaten homes, industries, companies, parks and environmental reserves. The idea behind this order is that, between life and the forest, life prevails.
Devastation shakesalso military
The gigantic amount of fires and the feeling of powerlessness in the face of the voracity of the fire saddens even the most trained military personnel on the front line. That’s what Lieutenant Lucas Silva Costa, commander of the firefighters’ kennel, who has also been working at Bemad for four years, admits. “As I have contact with animals all the time, when I see animals injured in these fires, I feel more”, he says.
He cites as an example the rescue of a rabbit in the Itacolomi Park, in Ouro Preto, which had 7% of its area consumed by fire last weekend. “It is sad to experience forest fires, because at various times we come across dead animals, already charred. Every time we fly over, it is sad to see that great devastation. It’s heavy for those who like it and are aware of preserving the environment. ”
For eight years in the corporation experiencing several occurrences, he is not used to the devastation of nature and is bothered by the fact that he has to prioritize the service. “As much as we work exhaustively before this time of the year with prevention, we are distressed that we cannot, at times, fight all outbreaks in the most critical season. But, within the resources we have, we do our utmost. We give life to these fires ”, says Lt. Lucas. “The saddest thing is to know that it happens due to the human factor, and that they are often criminal acts. The human being has this ability to set fire just to be able to see the destruction. ”
Relief, with rain, for residents of the tourist Lapinha da Serra, in Santana do Riacho, in Central de Minas. After two days of combat by the firefighters and brigadiers, the fire gave a respite in what is one of the most charming spots in the Serra do Cipó. In a note released yesterday afternoon, the Fire Department said the situation was already under control. “The teams are carrying out aftermath activity at various points to avoid reignitions and the spread of fire in unburnt areas,” said Captain Warley de Paula. According to firefighters, the burnt area, calculated in overflows, was approximately 2.8 thousand acre.
Recent occurrences have in common residents’ complaints about the delay in service, linked to the immediate non-availability of firefighters. Check out:
»In the most recent occurrence of fire in green areas, brigade members from Lapinha da Serra, in Santana do Riacho, in the Serra do Cipó region, reported having fought the flames from dawn until Thursday afternoon on their own. The following morning, the confrontation on land did not have military personnel either.
»Last week, the flames from the fire in the Serra do Cipó National Park approached homes and commercial establishments on the banks of the MG-10. Owners complained about the delayed arrival of firefighters and had to fight the flames with buckets.
»On the first day, residents reported the military’s delay in attacking the large fire that hit an environmental protection area in Nova União, in Greater BH. The community and the city say they had contacted the Fire Department two days earlier, but reportedly received information that there were no personnel available to attend to the incident.
»On day 2, a large fire hit an area of vegetation and came very close to properties in the Santa Cruz neighborhood, Northeast Region of BH. Once again, residents tried to extinguish the flames with buckets and hoses until the military arrived. “All the people on that street called, but the Fire Department took too long,” said biologist Fabiana Leandra de Souza Bittencourt, 42.
»In the fire that hit Serra da Moeda last month, the local community also complained about the delay in service. One of the properties affected by the flames was Condomínio Santuário, located in the massif. Brigadistas of the residential itself had to contain the flames near the house of a resident. The combat work was reinforced with two water trucks from the Moeda Prefecture.
Summons reaches “fourth reinforcement”
The corporation currently has approximately 5,500 military firefighters, including those from the operational service. So far, despite the difficulties, there has been no request for reinforcement from other states to help fight the flames in Minas Gerais territory. Firefighters in the administrative sector, known as the “fourth effort”, are normally working on a warning scale and can be called up at any time. In recent weeks, this scale has been triggered on some occasions, such as in the case of the fire at the Ibitipoca State Park, in Lima Duarte, in the Zona da Mata.
In a note, the Fire Department of Minas Gerais reinforces that it is fighting fires in all regions of the state. “Some are of great proportions, therefore requiring an important structure that includes the commitment of dozens of military personnel, vehicles and equipment. In addition, the strong heat, the common winds of the season and the geographical difficulty make the fight even longer and more difficult ”, he informs.
The corporation recognizes that it is difficult to meet all demand. “However, the Minas Gerais Military Fire Brigade remains committed to attending to all occurrences, considering the criterion of prioritizing service to cases that offer the greatest risk to the lives of the region’s residents,” concludes the text.