Fires in the Brazilian Amazon retreat in September

PORTO VELHO, Brasil, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest declined by nearly half in September compared a year ago, government data showed on Thursday, with rains and law enforcement initiatives helping to temper the destruction.

A Reuters witness in the Amazon state of Rondonia saw only two fires in a 40-minute flyover. Visibility was good, in sharp contrast with the thick smoke that blanketed the area during the peak burning season in 2019 and 2020.

The tepid fire season comes after major surges in fires in 2019 and 2020, which drew global outcry that right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro was not doing enough to protect the world’s largest rainforest.

Satellites recorded 16,747 blazes in the first 29 days of September, compared to 32,0174 for the full month in 2020, according to preliminary data from Brazil’s national space research agency Inpe.

“Rains really helped, and at some specific areas the acting of enforcement agencies was also very relevant,” said Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist specializing in fire data at Inpe.

“Thousands of fines were issued for illegal deforestation and fires in the Amazon.”

The Amazon saw more significant rain between Sept. 24 and 28, according to a fire bulletin compiled by several government agencies and reviewed by Reuters. Forecasts through Oct. 6 show substantial rains are predicted across the country.

Integrated actions by the government to stop fires has also been essential to reducing the damage, said Coronel Luis Antonio Ferreira Marques Ramos, an advisor to Vice President Hamilton Mourao.

Mourao has overseen policy in the Amazon since early in Bolsonaro’s presidency and presides over the coordinated effort between the military, environmental agencies, police and other government organs involved in fighting fires and deforestation.

On Wednesday, the Defense Ministry launched a new tool drawing on satellite data that it said would help to more rapidly prioritize where to focus firefighting efforts.

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