An American company is helping to combat the fires burning in the Amazon rainforest.
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The Colorado-based Global SuperTanker Services uses a Boeing 747-400 SuperTanker plane to help ground crews fighting wildfires. They’re currently working in Bolivia, where the government has hired them to help crews in the Chiquitania region and the Amazon.
Fires have already scorched about 3,475 square miles in Bolivia alone, The Associated Press reported. And Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research said it has seen more than 75,000 fires this year, an 84 percent increase from last year.
Global SuperTanker brought 14 personnel down to help the local ground crews in Bolivia, company president Dan Reese told FOX Business.
“This country is overwhelmed with an unprecedented number of large fires,” he said.
The company has been flying at least four missions each day since arriving in Bolivia on Thursday, according to Reese. The plane holds about 19,000 gallons of water, which it drops on stretches of rainforest about a quarter-mile at a time. The SuperTanker flies hundreds of miles in a single mission.
The company claims its SuperTanker is “the world’s largest, fastest and longest-range aerial firefighting asset.”
Winds that pick up during the day typically make the fires worse, so the company sends a lead plane ahead to ensure there’s enough visibility for the SuperTanker to operate and reach the targets requested by ground crews.
“All fires are the same,” Reese said. “When they’re burning hot, they’re resistant to control.”
These fires could have a lasting impact on the world. Tropical forests contain about half the world’s land-based biodiversity, and the Amazon produces six percent of the world’s oxygen. If enough rainforest is destroyed, it can shift to a dry savanna-like ecosystem.
The Amazon comprises about 40 percent of Brazil. Smaller pieces of the rainforest cross into neighboring countries like Bolivia. Many medicines are derived from plants found in the rainforest. Foods like bananas, citrus fruits, avocados, cashews and Brazil nuts also come from the rainforest.
Reese emphasized that the SuperTanker is just one part of the firefighting effort.
“Any one fire would take two or three of what we have,” he said. “There are hundreds. The scope of the fire down here is immense and the resources available are limited.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales has said he would welcome more aid in fighting the wildfires, the AP reported. During a news conference Sunday, he said he’s accepted offers of help from Spain, Chile and Paraguay.