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Brazil’s Amazon sees worst August fires in over a decade

Aerial view of a burnt area in the Amazon rainforest, near the Lago do Cunia Extractive Reserve, on the border of the states of Rondonia and Amazonas, northern Brazil, on Aug 31, 2022. (DOUGLAS MAGNO / AFP)

SAO PAULO – Fires in Brazil's Amazon rainforest surged in August to the highest for the month since 2010, government data showed on Wednesday, surpassing the blazes in August 2019 that drew global attention soon after President Jair Bolsonaro took office.

National space research agency INPE registered 31,513 fire alerts in the Amazon via satellite in the first 30 days of the month, making it the worst August since 2010, when fires totaled 45,018 for the full month.

National space research agency INPE registered 31,513 fire alerts in the Amazon via satellite in the first 30 days of the month, making it the worst August since 2010, when fires totaled 45,018 for the full month

Most of INPE's Amazon fire alerts in an average year come in August and September – considered the burning season in the region, when rains often subside to let ranchers and farmers often set fire to deforested areas. 

With one day left, fires this month are already up 12.3 percent from August 2021 and roughly 20 percent above the average for the month in the INPE data series since 1998.

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The uptick comes ahead of an October presidential election with leading candidates sharply at odds over destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

View of a burnt area in the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, state of Rondonia, northern Brazil, on August 31, 2022. (DOUGLAS MAGNO / AFP)

The frontrunner, leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has vowed tougher protection of the Amazon and blasted right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro for letting deforestation of the biome hit a 15-year high.

Experts blame President Jair Bolsonaro for rolling back environmental protections in Brazil, opening the way for loggers and ranchers to illegally clear more of the Amazon since he took office in 2019

Experts blame Bolsonaro for rolling back environmental protections in Brazil, opening the way for loggers and ranchers to illegally clear more of the Amazon since he took office in 2019.

Bolsonaro's office and the Environment Ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

READ MORE: Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon hits record for first half of 2022

Preliminary data showed that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon in the first seven months of this year totaled an area roughly seven times the size of New York City – the most for the period in at least six years.