Rio de Janeiro is a city known for its spirited festivities and all-night celebrations, but part of those revelries are being blamed for inadvertently setting a blaze on one of the city's hillside national parks over the weekend, which added an ominous glow to Rio's iconic natural skyline. Fortunately for residents, many of whom make their homes perched along city's forested peaks, the fire's destruction was limited to just 10 acres of vegetation, though the park was rich in wildlife. Firefighters suspect the blaze was caused after a fire-laden balloon was released into the sky by partygoers--a practice considered an environmental crime that carries with it a heavy fine and jail time.
According to a report from Globo, the fire was set late Saturday night on the Morro dos Cabritos in the southern part of Rio. Although no lives were lost in the blaze, the national park was destroyed as the protected swath Atlantic forest vegetation burned.
The sale, transportation, and releasing of these lantern-balloons, is considered an environmental crime, carrying with it a steep fine and a few years in jail. Still, revelers have continued the practice, particularly in the month of June as "Festa junina" celebrations get underway. The balloons, known as Balão de São João in Portuguese, are capable of reaching altitudes of 15 thousand feet, able to easily spark a blaze if they land on a hillside with their fiery cargo of kerosene.
While Rio's mayor has vowed to reforest the park, a reward is being offered to find the person who released the balloon and enforcement of the law is being stepped up. Just since April, 56 balloons have been confiscated.
The blaze, though a surreal site, goes to show how dangerous to the environment celebrations involving fire can be--and just how easily one idiot can mar an otherwise picturesque landscape.
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