Chile Wildfires Displace Thousands
For the past three weeks, wildfires have ravaged Central Chile in an event President Michele Bachelet called the “greatest forest disaster in our history”. Strong winds, hot temperatures and a prolonged drought have created chaos in seven separate regions with over a hundred wildfires burning this month. The fires have scorched hundreds of thousands of hectares from Santiago to Concepcíon, burning homes and displacing thousands of residents (see photos at this link).
As a result, at least eleven are dead including seven emergency responders (five firefighters and two policemen). Authorities have called a state of catastrophe in the central regions of O’Higgins and El Maule. Help in the form of funds and even manpower have been pouring in from nine different countries, including the United States.
Cause Still Under Investigation
As the fires have cooled down in most areas, determination of the cause of the wildfire outbreak has been found to be part negligence and part criminal. As of January 30th, local authorities had detained 43 Chileans for suspected arson.
Chile Wildfire Outlook
Fires are common in the summer in Central Chile, but the area is drier than normal, contributing to the dangerous conditions. Hot and windy weather is forecasted to remain prevalent, meaning the fires could continue to spread. The over 4,000 emergency responders deployed to the area will aim to prevent that in the coming weeks.
Chile Fire Outbreak Facts
- As of: January 31st, 2017
- Location: Central Chile
- Size: 180,000 hectares
- Containment: Around 35 of 100+ fires remain out of control
- Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread, fanned by strong winds, hot temperatures and a prolonged drought.
- Structures Destroyed: 1000+ (estimated)
- Evacuations: 4,000 reported by the National Emergency Office
- News Article: The Guardian
NASA’s Earth Observatory, The Guardian, NBC News, Wildfire Today, Yahoo