Brazilian Armed Forces Combat Wildfire in the Pantanal

Brazilian Armed Forces Combat Wildfire in the Pantanal

By Taciana Moury/Diálogo
September 11, 2020

The Brazilian Armed Forces have been fighting a wildfire that has been affecting the Pantanal between the states of Mato Grosso (MT) and Mato Grosso do Sul (MS) since July 25, 2020. The Brazilian Ministry of Defense launched Operation Pantanal, deploying five aircraft and more than 400 service members and civilians to help fight the wildfire. The wildfires are due to the drought that currently afflicts the region, considered the world’s largest continuous wetland, with 140,000 square kilometers in Brazilian territory.

An FAB helicopter helps transport and evacuate service members and firefighters, who work to put out the flames. (Photo: ComSoc 6°DN/Operation Pantanal)

According to information from Agência Brasil, by August 17, the wildfires had ravaged more than 1.5 million hectares in both states. The MS Fire Department estimates that the fire destroyed 910,000 hectares of vegetation in its state, and close to 640,000 hectares in MT.

Five aircraft are supporting the work service members and firefighters from the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources and military firefighters from both states are carrying out on the ground. The Aerospace Operations Command, a unit of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) based in Brasília, coordinates the use of aircraft.

The Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) is using Super Cougar and Esquilo helicopters. The latter are used for reconnaissance, to transport firefighters, and to combat the wildfire directly. The aircraft has a firefighting device that allows closer proximity to affected areas and enables greater precision while dumping water and foam.

An FAB Black Hawk rescued six firefighters who were trapped by the flames in a swamp region. (Foto: ComSoc 6°DN/Operation Pantanal)

The Brazilian Army sent the Pantera HM-1 aircraft to the Pantanal, which is also used to transport personnel, conduct reconnaissance, and assess fire zones. MB aircraft, marines trained in forest wildfires, and federal and state agencies also take part in the operation.

FAB freighter strengthens combat

A C-130 Hercules aircraft from FAB is being used to put out fire outbreaks. The aircraft, operated by the 1st Transport Group’s 1st Squadron can pour up to 12,000 liters of water per flight, according to information from the Air Force’s Press Office.

A FAB’s H-60L Black Hawk helicopter has been carrying firefighters to fire outbreak areas. The aircraft also remains on standby to respond to any incidents, as was the case on August 14, when FAB service members had to rescue a group of firefighters.