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Retiree burns 673 acres of Brazilian rainforest by setting fire to car in insurance scam

A retiree’s scam car insurance failed and started a catastrophic fire that burned huge tracts of land when his car exploded in a protected rainforest in Brazil.

Heli Barroso Martins, 66, burned 673 hectares of vegetation in the Araras Biological Reserve, in Petrópolis in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro.

The fire, which destroyed the equivalent of 1,257 soccer fields of environmentally protected land, was caused by staged carjacking that failed.

The fire in the photo destroyed the equivalent of 1,257 football fields of ecologically protected land as a staged carjacking that failed

The fire in the photo destroyed the equivalent of 1,257 football fields of ecologically protected land as a staged carjacking that failed

The retiree claimed he had been ambushed by two men on a motorcycle who set fire to his vehicle, pictured, after being unable to start the car

The retiree claimed he had been ambushed by two men on a motorcycle who set fire to his vehicle, pictured, after being unable to start the car

The retiree claimed he had been ambushed by two men on a motorcycle who set fire to his vehicle, pictured, after being unable to start the car

The retiree claimed that while driving home on a remote road in the region on July 27, he was held at gunpoint by two men on a motorcycle.

He said the shooters set his vehicle on fire after being unable to start the car due to ignition problems.

Martins said he was afraid of being killed and ran into the forest before calling friends for help.

However, police became suspicious of his version of the events after firefighters reported that the source of the fire was an abandoned car “intentionally” doused in gasoline.

The agents were also surprised that the attackers had not robbed the suspect’s phone and that he seemed unfazed by the episode when reporting the crime.

Two friends who picked up the stranded pensioner after the alleged robbery stated that he was calm, unharmed, and that his clothes were dry and clean.

Heli Barroso Martins, 66, burned down, burned 673 hectares of vegetation in the Araras Biological Reserve, in Petrópolis in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro

Heli Barroso Martins, 66, burned down, burned 673 hectares of vegetation in the Araras Biological Reserve, in Petrópolis in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro

Heli Barroso Martins, 66, burned down, burned 673 hectares of vegetation in the Araras Biological Reserve, in Petrópolis in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro

Firemen reported that the source of the fire was an abandoned car that was “deliberately” doused in gasoline

Agents visited about twenty service stations and found images of Martins buying a gallon of gas the day before the incident

Agents visited about twenty service stations and found images of Martins buying a gallon of gas the day before the incident

Agents visited about twenty service stations and found images of Martins buying a gallon of gas the day before the incident

Police confirmed on July 31 that the suspect has been detained without bail.

They think he had planned the insurance scam and hoped to collect 25,000 Reais, about £ 3,600 ($ 4,700) for the burned-out wreck.

Superintendent Joao Valentim said the damage to the Atlantic Forest was “catastrophic.”

He said forensic experts reported that the fire was caused by an “explosion that set dry vegetation on fire and strong winds propelled the flames,” causing it to spread.

Agents visited about 20 gas stations in surrounding cities and discovered footage of Martins buying a gallon of gasoline in nearby Três Rios the day before the incident.

The fire was the largest amount of environmental damage since the area was protected 43 years ago

The fire was the largest amount of environmental damage since the area was protected 43 years ago

The fire was the largest amount of environmental damage since the area was protected 43 years ago

The images show Martin paying for gas and putting it in his car. He told investigators that the gallon of fuel was for a friend, but he couldn't remember the friend's name

The images show Martin paying for gas and putting it in his car. He told investigators that the gallon of fuel was for a friend, but he couldn't remember the friend's name

The images show Martin paying for gas and putting it in his car. He told investigators that the gallon of fuel was for a friend, but he couldn’t remember the friend’s name

The images show a gas station worker who fills the container and pays Martins for it and then puts the bus in a carrying bag and in the back of his car.

He reportedly told investigators that the gallon of fuel was for a friend but couldn’t remember the friend’s name.

The fire spread quickly over very steep and difficult to access terrain and took firefighters three days.

A joint task force of 72 firefighters and environmental agents fought the flames with approximately 17 vehicles.

It took a joint task force of 72 firefighters and environmental agents three days to fight the fire with about 17 vehicles

It took a joint task force of 72 firefighters and environmental agents three days to fight the fire with about 17 vehicles

It took a joint task force of 72 firefighters and environmental agents three days to fight the fire with about 17 vehicles

Two helicopters took teams to the hard-to-reach areas, and the water was also dropped on burning areas through the air.

Isabela Bernardes, head of the nature reserve, said: “It is our greatest environmental damage since the area was protected 43 years ago. It takes decades for nature to recover. ‘

She added that they will calculate the loss of nature from the fire for years, believing that hundreds of animals may have died in the disaster.

“Fire crews saw animals flee and sought shelter from the flames.”

Police believe Martins planned the insurance scam and hoped to collect 25,000 Reais, about £ 3,600 ($ 4,700) for the burned-out wreck

Police believe Martins planned the insurance scam and hoped to collect 25,000 Reais, about £ 3,600 ($ 4,700) for the burned-out wreck

Police believe Martins planned the insurance scam and hoped to collect 25,000 Reais, about £ 3,600 ($ 4,700) for the burned-out wreck

The suspect is accused of attempting fraud and of causing a fire in a protected area under environmental laws.

The maximum sentence, if found guilty, is 15 years’ imprisonment.

This is because fires in the Amazon rainforest rose 28 percent in July from a year ago.

There were 6,803 fires in the Amazon last month, compared to 5,318 in the same month of 2019, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported.

Isabela Bernardes, head of the nature reserve, said it will take 'decades for nature to recover' after the fire

Isabela Bernardes, head of the nature reserve, said it will take 'decades for nature to recover' after the fire

Isabela Bernardes, head of the nature reserve, said it will take ‘decades for nature to recover’ after the fire

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