Around 6:00 p.m. on the last quarter, labaredas come to take a low and dry bush on the banks of Raul Barbosa Avenue, near the Fortaleza airport, in Ceará. We were the first signs that it would be confirmed hours later as the most serious fire ever registered in the largest urban natural park in the Northeast, or Cocó. Nearly twelve fizeram or fog foci spread over little more than 46 hectares. The park, located in the northern area of the city and historically disputed over real estate speculation, spans 15 neighborhoods. Due to the fire, several of the mornings in the Quinta-Feira were covered by a dense smoke. Foram avenues dated and two bus lines tiveram or route altered. Schools will interrupt classrooms and we will send students back home, and some residents of the most affected areas will have to leave their homes, on account of difficulty breathing.
On the inside side of the park ―a green corridor that crosses practically the entire capital on the banks of the Rio Cocó and whose ecosystem is responsible for regulating the temperature and microclimate of the city―, about 70 firefighters, brigadistas and volunteers work to control the fire. The farms had reached an open field area, which used to be longer in the first half of the year, drier in the second, when the rains practically disappeared in the city. The combination of dry vegetation, stronger winds and high temperatures typical of this period of the year results in fuel for the trees. The firefighters will need to act quickly to prevent the fire from closing in on the residential areas or advancing to the forest area, closer to the mangue and the river – or the great heart of diversity of fauna and flora of the park.
The park ―formed by an extensive ciliary forest, mangroves and dunes― shelters a series of native and exotic trees, in addition to hundreds of animal species, some of them on the risk of extinction. “The park has more than 1,500 hectares of green area in a city that has lost between 80% and 90% of its natural green area. O Cocó is the environmental breath of Fortaleza. It is very heterogeneous, with mangroves, open natural fields and palm trees”, explains Hugo Fernandes, biologist and researcher at the State University of Ceará (Uece). A member of the team that carried out an uprising of the fauna and flora of the park in 2018, he was among the brigadistas who acted to defeat the girls. The researcher thinks that the park is sheltered by less than 146 species of birds, 12 of mammals and more than 40 types of reptiles and amphibians.
“It is a rich fauna, with species threatened with extinction”, he says, citing as an example or leopardus tigrinus, a cat do kill. Recently, at the foot of the river, I saw peixe-boi encalhe, or that has not happened for decades. Part of the park, I did not find the river like the sea of Praia da Sabiaguaba, and also the spawning region of the tartaruga-pente. “É sem dúvida or great environmental heritage of Fortaleza”, summarizes Fernandes. Foram necessárias 22 hours of intense work to demolish or fire, time considered short for the dimension of the fire. Some iguanas and other animals were charred, losses that are still being accounted for by the State. More than 50 native and exotic trees are consumed by children. Além disso, or fire probably caused the escape of mammals and animals with greater mobility potential, which now will have to try to survive in other areas of the park and cause imbalance in food relations. “All environmental impact occurs em cadeia”, lembra or biologist.
For now, it is still not known exactly what caused the fire. “Every fire there is criminal, because the environmental law does not authorize the use of fire in the area. Either fire can only be used with an environmental license, or there wasn’t”, explains the secretary of the Environment of Ceará, Artur Bruno. In the last seven years, there have been 45 fires recorded in the park, four of them just in 2021. Generally, there is fire burning by residents of the roundabouts of the park or by burning caused by real estate speculation.
“It always comes down to the human hand, whether accidental or intentional. Cabe à perícia dizer o que houve. Or that people know that it is not natural”, says Fernandes. The case is under investigation at the Department of Environmental Crimes, accompanied by technicians from the Secretary of the Environment (Sema). Artur Bruno says that none of these hypotheses is ruled out and that, for now, there are no more informations. Fontes ouvidas daily hair or Povo Apontam that the fire in Cocó can be related to the conflict of criminal factions. According to the newspaper, a preliminary estimate indicates that a man linked to the faction would have been escorted or fired along Murilo Borges Avenue, near the park, during a confrontation between crime-dominated areas in the region. The head of the Sema, which accompanies the investigations, does not confirm this hypothesis. “Ainda é cedo to point out any thing, we need to wait for the investigations”, he says.
One of the two most relevant ecological heritages of the city, or Cocó has seen numerous properties erected in recent years. Some of the buildings practically have a private entrance for the trails of the park. Avenues and viaducts were also built, opening up part of the green area, despite two numerous protests by environmentalists, who argued about the impacts on the complex ecosystem of its mangroves. So many presses will last for decades in their regularization process, leading to countless occupations of the park by activists. Just after 45 years of fighting or the park was finally made official, in 2017.
It cannot be said, contudo, that he is safe. Real estate speculation is strong, especially in some two famous neighborhoods that are accompanied by a greater diversity of fauna and flora, such as the Cocó, Guararapes and Edson Queiroz neighborhoods. The secretary Artur Bruno says that weekly rounds are paid throughout the entire extension of Cocó to avoid irregular occupations. “Let’s make a weekly inspection to avoid improper appropriation, whether it be rich or poor, because there is also a great demand for housing in the city. We managed to assim chegar no início das construções para impedi-las”, he explains.
The park also has 30 kilometers of fences with grades to limit the access and begin to install monitoring cameras that should guarantee the safety of the population in the laser areas, in addition to helping to control fires. The Government of the State informs that it hired 19 temporary brigade members to work in the second semester, when the fires are more frequent. “Every year, starting this year, we will have a forestry brigade. They are foram hired in October, from November they start to act. A fire of this size was only put down in less than a day because they all turned strongly. The area is ruim, it’s not like a path to enter, for example”, concludes Bruno.
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