SANTIAGO – The National Emergency Office of the Ministry of the Interior of Chile (Onemi) has established a red alert in several communes (municipalities) following the activation of forest fires in the central region of Valparaíso and the southern region of O’Higgins.
Authorities reported Wednesday that there are at least 71 active fire sources between the two regions. The fires, stimulated by the intense heat, affected the localities of Viña del Mar, Santo Domingo, Villa Alemana, Limache, Valparaíso, Navidad and Puchuncaví, and even forced the evacuation of some 300 people due to the proximity of the flames to urban areas.
Until Thursday noon, the fires scorched some 700 hectares of pastures, while brigades, helicopters and the mobile command post of the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf), together with army troops, are trying to combat it.
Onemi has now declared early warning for high temperatures in the region of O’Higgins, with which that territory was added to those of Coquimbo, Valparaíso and Metropolitana, which were already on alert by heat wave since January 1.
Director de CONAF O'Higgins @mcerdaconaf, junto a Intendente regional @juanmasferrer, gobernador de Cardenal Caro y otras autoridades evalúan en terreno situación de la comuna de Navidad, afectada por incendio forestal de magnitud. #ChileLoProtegemosTodos pic.twitter.com/JosBnLFAaj
— CONAF (@conaf_minagri) January 3, 2019
According to the authority of Conaf, around 6:30 p.m. there were 62 fires, but 40 minutes later the situation increased by nine more fires, which complicated the task of the teams that work in extinguishing the flames.
The forestry engineer said that 99.7% of fires are caused by people. And, of them, 30% is generated intentionally.
⚠️🔥Ahora| Delegado Provincial @enriquebeltrann desplegado en terreno junto a Equipos de emergencia, @conaf_minagri y Bomberos, quienes trabajan en el combate de incendio forestal #IF en sector Cerro Manquehue 5 de #Vitacura. #RMdeTodos pic.twitter.com/XcxUsT4gwb
— DelegaciónStgo (@DelegacionStgo) January 3, 2019
Conaf manager Aida Baldini affirmed that the losses that represent a threat to the houses, are grouped in the coastal region of Valparaiso; in the metropolitan region of Santiago and several regions in southern Chile. In Valparaíso, the most dangerous centers are affecting Villa Alemana and Placilla, fires that have caused the intervention of helicopters and several fire companies.
“It’s striking. Here obviously there is action, even children and there is also intentionality because they are popping up in sectors where people do not usually visit and are ignited in places where they know that the fire will spread very fast,” Baldini said in statement to Radio Biobío.
Due to the seriousness of the situation, José Manuel Rebolledo, executive director of Conaf, insisted on the importance of taking preventive measures in the face of high temperatures and recalled that low humidity is also forecast this week, so dry grass is lit with the most minimum heat source.
La prevención es clave para evitar que nuevos focos de incendios forestales surjan. Te invitamos a estar muy atento y seguir las recomendaciones de @conaf_minagri para impedir nuevas emergencias 🚨
¡Prevenir un incendio forestal es + fácil que combatirlo! #ChileLoProtegemosTodos pic.twitter.com/aXwE7jLB9D
— Ministerio de Agricultura de Chile 🇨🇱 (@MinagriCL) January 3, 2019
In Chile, forest fires multiply in the summer season due to coinciding factors such as intense heat, low humidity and strong winds.