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Bolivians use hoses, water bottles to battle wildfire blazes

forest fires devastate the bolivian amazon, in san buenaventura
Firefighters tackle fire in a sugar field as forest fires ravage the Bolivian Amazon, in San Buenaventura, Bolivia

Bolivians are battling wildfire blazes that have torn through 3 million hectares (11,583 square miles) of land this year, with firefighters and police using hoses, sprinklers and at times bottles of water to try to hold back flames.

The wildfires, which come as its neighbor Brazil battles with scorching temperatures and its own fires, have led to canceled flights and shut schools due to smoked-filled air and devastated ecosystems. Over a dozen people have died.

“Everything was burnt: crops, vegetation, cuttings, coffee plantations, citric plantations, banana plantations. In other words, it devastated everything,” said Guillermo Medina from Tumpasa in northern Bolivia, which was hit by the fires.

“It didn’t leave anything. Now we have nothing left. We have been demanding food for days because we have children, and we live off agriculture.”

The leftist government of President Luis Arce has called for international aid, with firefighters coming down from Venezuela to help as well as others from France, Chile and Brazil.

In San Buenaventura, north of La Paz, police wore rubber boots and improvised ponchos, and without hoses, they used water bottles and some sprinklers to fight the wildfires.

Experts said the 2023 fires were the worst in recent years following behind widespread blazes in 2019. Bolivia, which has seen a spike in deforestation in recent years, has large wetland areas and a big chunk of South America’s Amazon rainforest.

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