Forest fires re-ignite in Torres del Paine

Forest fires re-ignite in Torres del Paine

03 February 2012

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Chile — PUNTA ARENAS – On Wednesday afternoon, the forest fires that have destroyed approximately 16,000 acres of Torres del Paine National Park since December once again burst back into life.

The fires were fed by strong winds that reached 100 kilometers per hour and have affected the region since last Saturday.

The reactivation, reported in the areas surrounding Laguna Verde, was first confirmed by government spokesman Andrés Chadwick, as well as regional authorities.

Last night, Minister of the Interior Rodrigo Ubilla, said that 77 firefighters and two new helicopters have been assigned to combat the flames, in a manner described as “absolutely preventative”.

He added that the current situation “is natural, given the magnitude of the incident last December”, and that the fire “has involved around 10 acres of forest outside of the Torres del Paine Park”, so tourism will not be affected.

“We have 83 Conaf and military firefighters working and we’ve decided to transfer 77 more to the area. There are two helicopters working and two more are being transferred as well,” he said.

The minister explained that with these 160 people and four helicopters, “plus all the machinery and technical support, we believe we are in good condition to face a growing fire in case the wind starts working against us.”

Meanwhile, the governor of Ultima Esperanza, Max Salas Illanes, confirmed that the source of the fire was detected on the northwest shore of Laguna Verde, which borders la Estancia Lazo, property of farmer Diego Portales.

The fire has endangered residents of the estancia, located 30 km North of Route 9, which leads to Torres del Paine.

Strong gusts of wind

Governor Salas said the area is “very complicated” with its many large trees. That, plus the presence of strong winds, makes it impossible to operate with soldiers of the Reinforced Lancers Regiment, who they met in the area. The authorities added that the strong gusts are preventing them from attacking the front of the fire.

Weather conditions have been a key factor in the resurgence of the flames. ”We’ll have to get used to the summer season, as long as there is drought and such little rainfall (…) to always have fires to extinguish,” said Mayor Arthur Storaker, who also said that the wind will continue like this for the next three days.

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