FRANCO DA ROCHA, Brazil -- A fire that authorities blamed on an illegal candle balloon burned for a second day Monday at Brazil’s Juquery state park outside Sao Paulo, which was showered with ash from the blaze a day earlier.
More than 100 firefighters were trying to douse the flames at the park in Franco da Rocha, a municipality in Sao Paulo’s metropolitan region. City officials estimated 60% of the 2,000-hectare (5,000-acre) park had been charred.
The city hall statement said six people were arrested Sunday night in connection with the case, but were released hours later on bail. They were not identified.
Brazilians often send small balloons lighted by candles up into the night sky to enjoy the show, even though the practice is prohibited and punishable by fines or even prison. Sao Paulo state officials list the balloons among the top three causes of forest fires each year.
Juquery Park was created in 1993 and preserves one of the last remnants of the Cerrado biome around Sao Paulo, which is 39 kilometers (24 miles) away. Four years ago, about 10% of its area burned in a similar incident.
Spokesperson Walkiria Zanquini told The Associated Press that the Sao Paulo state’s fire department received more than 1,500 calls about the quick spreading fire since Sunday afternoon and that firemen were exhausted due to the efforts.
“We have to find energy (to work) where there isn’t any left,” she said.
Residents of several regions of metropolis Sao Paulo reported ashes falling from the sky since Sunday afternoon and there was a strong smell of fire throughout the city, even in areas more than 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the fire.
Sao Paulo is experiencing a dry winter season, which specialists believe facilitated the fire’s spread.