CHILE - Forest fires which broke out in central Chile in mid-January destroyed a total of 556,000 ha forest and grassland by the end of the month. Of this figure, 70,000 ha of forest plantations were affected. This was reported by Spanish news agency EFE on 1 February on the basis of a report by the chairman of Corporación Chilena de la Madera (CORMA), Fernando Raga. According to Raga, the damage for plantation growers which ensues amounts to a value of US$350m. This amount does not include damage in subsequent areas of the timber processing industry, for example due to fire damage at affected production locations or as a consequence of production stoppages caused by an insufficient supply of raw materials.
In the regions chiefly affected – Maule and Bio Bio – the largest plantation growers include Empresas CMPC, Celulosa Arauco y Constitutión as well as Maderas y Sinteticos (Masisa). According to CMPC, up to 3 February the forest fires affected a total of 19,583 ha, representing some 4% of all the companys plantations. The fires continued to spread rapidly at the end of January, with the area affected increasing within two days from 12.750 ha to 18.788 ha. By 2 February the spread of the fires was then significantly reduced to approximately 200 ha/day and on 3 February no further increase in the affected area was recorded. The actual extent of losses cannot yet be quantified according to CMPC.