Potential forest fire risk in Chile’s urban zones

Potential forest fire risk in Chile’s urban zones

02 June 2014

published by www.bnamericas.com

Chile — Chile’s uneven growth in rural areas has created some 28 zones with the potential risk of forest fires in urban zones, resulting in an increase in deaths and infrastructure losses. The vast Valparaíso wildfire in all likelihood will not be an isolated event.

Last month, a forest fire quickly spread across hills around the port city Valparaíso, in central Chile, killing 15 people and destroying nearly 3,000 homes. Fire damage was estimated at US$1bn including efforts to to recover damaged infrastructure and upgrade raising social housing standards and changes in urban planning to consider fire and landslides risks.

However, beyond Valparaíso, other areas at risk are Melipilla and Talagante, near Santiago, and several towns surrounding southern Concepción city.

“It’s not an isolated case,” Julio Torres, executive secretary of foresters association Cifag , told BNamericas.

“In recent years, urban sprawl has encroached upon rural areas, creating an urban-rural interface that didn’t exist before,” he added.

In 2013-14, forest fires destroyed 105,971ha – an area equal to the size of Manhattan, Buenos Aires, Paris and Madrid combined, and the largest area since records began in 1963.

Torres said Chile needs to regulate urbanization in such areas, improve forest monitoring and create better firewalls.

“Valparaíso’s [tragedy] is the logical consequence of ignoring this interface,” Torres added.

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