Wildfires in northern and central Bolivia threaten at least four nature reserves, where otters, jaguars, birds and other animals live, authorities said on Wednesday.
At least sixteen major fires in the department of Santa Cruz and four in the department of Beni increased in intensity, powered by more than 90 km (56 miles). The Bolivian National Meteorology and Hydrology Service (Senamhi) declared an orange alert.
Despite the work of firefighters, volunteers and residents, the fires show no sign of stopping.
“73% of the department (of Santa Cruz) present extreme risk of an outbreak of forest fires,” Yovenka Rosado, Santa Cruz’s national resource coordinator, said.
“The fires in the department of Santa Cruz could become more complicated. That is why we have asked the vice-minister of Civil Defence to deploy soldiers of the Armed Forces to reinforce the fight against forest fires in Santa Cruz,” Rosado said, adding that close to a dozen cities in Santa Cruz have declared a “forest fire disaster.”
In Beni, the fires affect northern Bolivia’s Itenez Amazonian park and nature reserve. Firefighters, army personnel and volunteers are creating fire lanes to prevent the fire, which is spreading through grasslands and wooded areas, from entering nature reserves.
Four cities in Beni have declared a state of emergency. The fires in the department have already destroyed more than 4,500 hectares.