Raging fires require Chile to look beyond borders

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Published On : Mon, Jan 13th, 2014

Forest fires sweeping through Chile’s central-southern regions force government to look to Brazil for emergency resources.

Raging fires require Chile to look beyond borders

Firefighters at work in central Chile. Photo via Info Sai / Twitter

As fires continue to spread in several regions, the government is looking abroad for further support in its battle against the flames, having enlisted the help of a special aircraft from Brazil to fly over affected areas in the Bío Bío Region.

Authorities issued a red alert for the Cordillera Province in the Metropolitan Region on Sunday evening, and there is still a yellow alert for the whole region. At time of press, two fires were still burning uncontrolled in the Metropolitan Region and blazes in the Central and Southern regions continue to spread.

The extensive amount of land mass damaged by the forest fires is alarming compared to last season’s statistics. In 2012-2013, according to National Fire Service (Conaf) figures, 1,317 acres of the Metropolitan Region were damaged by blazes — current fires have burnt over 51,575 acres.

“We always knew that this was going to be a difficult season, but it has to be mentioned that the severity is only because of the simultaneousness of the fires. We have had worse seasons in terms of material damage, like in 1999 when we lost 264,402 acres, but now we have had several fires in the same period of time and in very remote geographical areas,” Conaf firefighting chief Fernando Maldonado told Publimetro.

Presently, Araucanía is the region with the largest amount of forest fires — totaling 15, of which two are beyond the control of fire fighters in Reserva Villarrica and Quetre.

In the Valparaíso Region firefighters are currently battling fire in Curva de la Muerte and red alert remains in the Cartagena District. Although the forest fire in Quebrada Escobar has been extinguished, a red alert was raised on Sunday evening for Villa Alemana, as well as San Antonio and Marga Marga.

Three forest fires remain uncontained in areas of the Maule and O’Higgins regions — Maule, Las Vizcachas, Bramadero and Constitución are the areas where fire is currently spreading. In the O’Higgins Region the forest fire in Chancon, close to the city of Rancagua, is still uncontrolled, along with two more fires located south-west of the regional capital.

Eight blazes remain in the Bío Bío Region. The fire in Punta de Parra keeps ravaging native forests, with firefighters unable to contain it.

A Conaf source told The Santiago Times that one firefighting aircraft from Brazil is already in Chile — set to be used in the Bío Bío Region shortly — and a second could be rented.

By Sandra Segall (sandra@santiagotimes.cl)
Copyright 2014 – The Santiago Times

About the Author

Sandra Segall
Sandra Segall
Sandra is a print and radio journalist with a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies. She specializes in international affairs and human rights. Follow her on Twitter via @sandrasegall or contact her at sandra@santiagotimes.cl.