For the past two weeks, Zonalia Santos and her neighbours have spent their days trying to save their houses and crops from the large forest fires in the western Brazilian state of Rondonia.
Santos lives in a settlement with 35 other families and although they managed to save their homes, she tells Al Jazeera “the fire touched almost everything else”.
“We spent the whole day fighting the fire ourselves, but it took pastures, bushes, cacao crops, wood, nuts or acai berries,” she says. Santos and her family depend on growing cacao to produce chocolate, from which they make about $100 a month. She says they were lucky that the fire did not get to their crops, but “some families lost everything”.
“The damage is irreversible. At some point, when we were putting out the fire, we started crying because it is so sad that we protect so much to then see everything destroyed by a fire,” she says.
Brazil‘s northern and western regions have experienced an 83 percent increase in the number of fires in the first eight months of 2019 compared with the same time period last year, according to Brazil’s space research centre INPE. Its satellite system detected 72,843 fires in the region this year. The states of Amazonas, Rondonia, Acre, Para and Mato Grosso do Sul were some of the most affected, and most of the burning happens inside the Amazon rainforest. In just a week, 9,507 new fires were detected in the world’s biggest rainforest, commonly referred to as the “planet’s lung”.