the fire is coming

This is a story about the Kamayurá tribe in the Xingu region of Brazil’s Amazon basin. Increased agriculture and the rapid development of Brazil’s interior and natural resources have resulted in immense and drastic changes in both rainfall and fire patterns throughout much of the Amazon. As a result, the home of the Kamayurá, as well as many other tribes in the Xingu, is under serious threat. Fire is the single biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon and, unfortunately, the government agencies tasked with combating it are rife with corruption and scandal. Therefore, the Kamayurá — with the help of a private landowner and conservationist — have formed an elite firefighting unit that has undergone intense and rigorous training conducted by US Forest Service Smokejumper and Hotshot crews. These men have, in turn, reduced fires by 98% in the four years since they started operating fully. They do this with little to no logistical support or financial backing and they have become a source of pride in a tribe that, only a few years ago, was at risk of losing its culture and heritage completely. The firefighters have earned the respect of the entire tribe, once more filling the role of the warrior that was left vacant when the modern world clashed with their own. These men are known as the Guerreiros de Fogo — the Fire Warriors — and they are fighting not only for their home, but also for their culture.

Photographs by Tito West - Mato Grosso, Brazil