Illegal fires surge in Amazon rainforest with impunity

by Katie Nelson

August 18, 2020

Despite Brazil’s fire “moratorium,” blazes in the Amazon are still out of control.

Manaus, Brazil One month after the Brazilian government announced a 120-day “moratorium” to ban fires in the Amazon and three months since sending troops into the field to prevent burnings the region continues to record a shocking number of fires. [1]

See images here from Greenpeace’s flyover of Amazonas and Rondônia states on August 16, 2020.

“Bolsonaro´s administration has continued to systematically dismantle environmental protection and has undermined the work of environmental law enforcement agencies. Bolsonaro’s supposed fire ban has already been undermined by Bolsonaro himself. Sending troops to the Amazon is just a PR stunt and a waste of resources,said Cristiane Mazzetti, Amazon Campaigner for Greenpeace Brazil. 

Fires in the rainforest do not occur naturally, but are deliberately set by land-grabbers and ranchers to expand the land used for industrial agriculture production. Of greatest concern is that fires are occurring increasingly on Indigenous lands located within the Amazon — such as the Munduruku Indigenous Land, which recorded a 78 percent increase compared to last year. [1]

This year, burning season threatens to aggravate the COVID-19 pandemic, as the smoke both causes and exacerbates respiratory diseases. Isolated Amazon communities are additionally vulnerable, as there is no or very limited access to healthcare in remote regions. Recent research found that the COVID-19 mortality rate of Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon is 250 percent higher than the general population.

“Brazil has shown, in the past, that it is possible, with proper policies and enforcement, such as the demarcation of Indigenous Peoples’ lands, to decrease deforestation and fires substantially. It is a matter of political will. Instead of combating criminal behavior and protecting Indigenous forest guardians already hit hard by COVID-19, this government continues to reduce environmental protection and ally itself with those who want to destroy the forest,” said Mazzetti.


[1] All analysis based on data from INPE, Brazil’s space agency. The data comes from the top 30 Conservation Areas and top 30 Indigenous Lands in Brazil, with more fire hotspots registered for the studied period.   

[2] More details here:


Katie Nelson, Strategic Communications Specialist, Greenpeace USA: +1 (678) 644-1681, [email protected]


Katie Nelson

By Katie Nelson

Katie Nelson is a Senior Communications Specialist at Greenpeace USA.

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.