World Resource Institute

Brazil: Fire and Flood Responses in the Amazon

By Foster Brown and George Luiz Pereira Santos

Acre State, in Brazil’s Amazon, is the country’s most Western state, bordering Peru and Bolivia. In the past 6 years, the State has suffered two severe droughts; the 2005 drought was considered a 100 year event. It was followed five years later by another one of equal severity but more widespread in its impacts. In 2005, the early stages of the drought became evident in May; a ban on fires was declared in August, but it was not until late September that a state of emergency was declared by officials. By then, significant fire damage had occurred; it was not until October rains came that fires were completely controlled.

At the time of the fire ban, the government of Acre set up a fire response situation room to monitor the status of fire activity, to coordinate the activities of various government offices, and to direct fire-fighting resources to high priority areas. Using satellite data and information gathered by daily overflights, the situation room was able to coordinate what resources were available to fight fires; priority was given to the protection of rural population and infrastructure. Damage to both open areas and Amazon forest was extensive, nonetheless, with some 500,000 hectares affected.

With the onset of the drought of 2010, the Acre government responded sooner, with a state of emergency declared in early August and the situation room activated. Again, the goal of the program, given limited resources, was to direct fire-fighting responses to critical areas.

Based on its performance in 2005, the situation room model has been adopted by the Acre government for use in response to other extreme events; situation rooms were activated in 2006, 2009, 2010 and early 2011 for floods in the State.

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