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El Nino Parches A Rain Forest

High in Mexico's Chimpalas forest, El Nino is breaking another law of nature. A rain forest is on fire.

Jorge Jimenez makes his living farming an area bordering the rain forest. He's leading a small band of his neighbors who are fighting the by hand.

"If there is a stream, we pump water from it," says Jimenez. But when there is no water the branches themselves must be cut.

The remote jungle where Jimenez toils against almost insurmountable odds is a three-hour climb straight up from the nearest village. It is difficult for any firefighters to get to, and smoke-impaired visibility has made assistance by helicopters all but impossible.

The basic strategy in fighting the fires is to isolate the sections of burning underbrush. This has been done by hand, machete chop by machete chop. Once corridors of the forest are cleared of underbrush, the hope is that area will act as a barrier preventing the fires' spread.

However, high winds have been whipping the flames across the man-made boundaries. Even when the winds subside, burning trees fall creating new paths of fire.

Rosendo Montiel, an environmentalist, can't believe what's happening to the forest, which was the last untouched rain forest in Mexico.

"The rain forest is very humid," he says. "It has never burned, but with the dryness of this year, the fires are here."

Reported by Jim Axelrod
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