Life in Brazil: Bombeiros and cloud forest

September 03, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Text by Bethanie Walder

Marcel couldn’t have known, when he put on his bright yellow shirt on Saturday, that he might be mistaken for a wildland firefighter later in the day. But as he scrambled around in blackened grass, photographing some bombeiros (firefighters) stomping out a small wildfire, it was easy to mistake him for one of the crew.

We spent the weekend in and around Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina. Near the coastal border of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states, Bocaina covers about 104,000 hectares and is largely made up of primary Atlantic Forest. It has some of the highest mountains in São Paulo State, and the mountains drop right down to the ocean. It definitely felt like we were headed into the clouds as we drove up a very steep, extremely curvy mountain road, in a thick fog, near midnight Friday night. The cloud forest has tapir, puma, sloths, several species of monkeys and numerous other mammals, though we didn’t see any wildlife while we were there (but we did find some tracks that might have been from a puma).

 

Images below Atlantic forest (here it is also a cloud forest), near Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. At the end of the afternoon - as the sun sets - the clouds roll in over the forested slopes.

Atlantic forest in clouds, near Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilAtlantic forest in clouds, near Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilAtlantic forest in clouds, near Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. At the end of the afternoon as the sun is setting clouds roll over the forested slopes. The area between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is classified as cloud forest.

*** SELECT BLACK AND WHITE PAPER FOR PRINTING; COLOR PAPER WILL RESULT IN BROWN HAZE OVER IMAGE ***
Atlantic forest in clouds, near Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilAtlantic forest in clouds, near Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilAtlantic forest in clouds, near Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. At the end of the afternoon as the sun is setting clouds roll over the forested slopes. The area between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is classified as cloud forest.

 

We stayed in a beautiful house (we are fortunate to know Gambá, since he has many friends who have well-placed vacation houses) near the top of a mountain, just a few kilometers from one of the park entrances. As we drove to the park on Saturday we had passed two bombeiros (fire fighters), walking along the road in their bright yellow shirts. Gambá gave them a ride to the park in the bed of the VW Amarok pickup truck (VW sponsors the outdoor adventure company Gambá works for, Adventure Camp, by providing them with this truck – Marcel is infatuated – if they sold diesel Amaroks in the US, I think he’d buy one).

 

Images below: Firefighters hitching a ride to a fire with the Volkswagen Amarok from Adventure Camp, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil

Fire fighter hitching a ride to a fire with the Volkswagen Amarok from Adventure Camp, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighter hitching a ride to a fire with the Volkswagen Amarok from Adventure Camp, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighter hitching a ride to a fire with the Volkswagen Amarok from Adventure Camp, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. When we saw two firefighters running up the dirt road we figured there was a fire somewhere. “Gamba” Luiz Antônio offered them a ride in the back of the Volkswagen Amarok of Adventure Camp. It turned out to be over 11 km away; the ride in the truck made a big difference. When we got there the fire was mostly out. The fire had burned some grassland but stpoped when it hit Atlantic forest. The firefighters kicked out the remaining flames and smoldering logs and removed the bigger logs to areas that had already been burned. Fire fighter hitching a ride to a fire with the Volkswagen Amarok from Adventure Camp, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighter hitching a ride to a fire with the Volkswagen Amarok from Adventure Camp, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighter hitching a ride to a fire in the back of the Volkswagen Amarok from Adventure Camp, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. When we saw two firefighters running up the dirt road we figured there was a fire somewhere. “Gamba” Luiz Antônio offered them a ride in the back of the Volkswagen Amarok of Adventure Camp. It turned out to be over 11 km away; the ride in the truck made a big difference. When we got there the fire was mostly out. The fire had burned some grassland but stpoped when it hit Atlantic forest. The firefighters kicked out the remaining flames and smoldering logs and removed the bigger logs to areas that had already been burned.

On our way back to the house, we encountered two more bombeiros. As we were driving away, they got a call on the radio about a fire and they started jogging. So Gambá turned around and offered them a ride. They happily jumped in. Then we drove, nearly 12K on terribly eroded and rutted dirt roads, to the fire. I thought the bombeiros would bounce out of the truck – even inside we were belted in and holding on. Regardless, Marcel and I were confused. Were they just going to walk the 12K to the fire? That would take hours. Where were their tools?

Thanks to Gambá, the two bombeiros we picked up arrived first, and were able to quickly arrest any further advance of the tiny grass fire we encountered. The fire had already mostly stopped as it reached larger, wetter, vegetation. Thankfully it was tiny, because the only fire-fighting tools they were carrying were machetes. No water, no pulaskis, no shovels. They literally stamped out the fire with their boots and then hacked a smoldering, twisted, tree trunk out of the ground to move it away from other flammable vegetation, placing it atop the blackened grasses that had already burned. Perhaps 10 minutes after we arrived, two more bombeiros showed up on a motorcycle. They also had no real tools with them. They showed us cellphone videos of the much larger fire they had put out the week before. They also told us that, during this drought, people have been setting fires in the mountains, but I wasn’t able to discern if it was pure mischief or if these arsonists were gaining in some way. As we were driving away, nearly 45 minutes or more after we initially got there, a truck with tools and a few more bombeiros was arriving. But even at that point, the water truck still hadn’t come.

 

Images below: Firefighter kicking out the last bits of a grass fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil

Fire fighter kicking out the last bits of a grass fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighter kicking out the last bits of a grass fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighter kicking out the last bits of a grass fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. When we saw two firefighters running up the dirt road we figured there was a fire somewhere. “Gamba” Luiz Antônio offered them a ride in the back of the Volkswagen Amarok of Adventure Camp. It turned out to be over 11 km away; the ride in the truck made a big difference. When we got there the fire was mostly out. The fire had burned some grassland but stpoped when it hit Atlantic forest. The firefighters kicked out the remaining flames and smoldering logs and removed the bigger logs to areas that had already been burned.

Fire fighter kicking out the last bits of a grass fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighter kicking out the last bits of a grass fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighter kicking out the last bits of a grass fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. When we saw two firefighters running up the dirt road we figured there was a fire somewhere. “Gamba” Luiz Antônio offered them a ride in the back of the Volkswagen Amarok of Adventure Camp. It turned out to be over 11 km away; the ride in the truck made a big difference. When we got there the fire was mostly out. The fire had burned some grassland but stpoped when it hit Atlantic forest. The firefighters kicked out the remaining flames and smoldering logs and removed the bigger logs to areas that had already been burned.

Image below: Firefighters after putting out a grassland fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil

Fire fighters after putting out a grassland fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighters after putting out a grassland fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighters after putting out a grassland fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. When we saw two firefighters running up the dirt road we figured there was a fire somewhere. “Gamba” Luiz Antônio offered them a ride in the back of the Volkswagen Amarok of Adventure Camp. It turned out to be over 11 km away; the ride in the truck made a big difference. When we got there the fire was mostly out. The fire had burned some grassland but stpoped when it hit Atlantic forest. The firefighters kicked out the remaining flames and smoldering logs and removed the bigger logs to areas that had already been burned.

If Gambá hadn’t driven these two bombeiros to the fire, they would have walked for a good hour or more before being picked up by a truck that was hauling the remaining fire crew and some tools. This scenario is just so foreign, especially when considering the “fire-industrial complex” in western forests of the United States. But then again, that’s the beauty of visiting foreign countries – you get to see and experience such differences. And in this instance, the limited resources had no real impact on whether or not the bombeiros were able to put out the fire. Regardless, it made for a very interesting afternoon.

 

Images below: Firefighters after putting out a grassland fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil

Fire fighters after putting out a grassland fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighters after putting out a grassland fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilFire fighters after putting out a grassland fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. When we saw two firefighters running up the dirt road we figured there was a fire somewhere. “Gamba” Luiz Antônio offered them a ride in the back of the Volkswagen Amarok of Adventure Camp. It turned out to be over 11 km away; the ride in the truck made a big difference. When we got there the fire was mostly out. The fire had burned some grassland but stpoped when it hit Atlantic forest. The firefighters kicked out the remaining flames and smoldering logs and removed the bigger logs to areas that had already been burned. The fire fighters pose with the Volkswagen Amarok after putting out the fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilThe fire fighters pose with the Volkswagen Amarok after putting out the fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilThe fire fighters pose with the Volkswagen Amarok after putting out the fire, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. When we saw two firefighters running up the dirt road we figured there was a fire somewhere. “Gamba” Luiz Antônio offered them a ride in the back of the Volkswagen Amarok of Adventure Camp. It turned out to be over 11 km away; the ride in the truck made a big difference. When we got there the fire was mostly out. The fire had burned some grassland but stpoped when it hit Atlantic forest. The firefighters kicked out the remaining flames and smoldering logs and removed the bigger logs to areas that had already been burned.

Image below: Roadside meeting with fire fighters, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil

Roadside meeting with fire fighters, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilRoadside meeting with fire fighters, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, BrazilRoadside meeting with fire fighters, Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, São Paulo, Brazil. When we saw two firefighters running up the dirt road we figured there was a fire somewhere. “Gamba” Luiz Antônio offered them a ride in the back of the Volkswagen Amarok of Adventure Camp. It turned out to be over 11 km away; the ride in the truck made a big difference. When we got there the fire was mostly out. The fire had burned some grassland but stpoped when it hit Atlantic forest. The firefighters kicked out the remaining flames and smoldering logs and removed the bigger logs to areas that had already been burned.

 

Click here to view other images the firefighters

Click here to view more images of Atlantic forest

Some large format prints (limited edition) are now for sale at Freshwater Studio & Gallery in Missoula, Montana.

Like Marcel Huijser Photography on Facebook

All content © 2014 Marcel Huijser

 


Comments

No comments posted.
Loading...

Archive
January February (6) March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April (9) May (1) June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December