CHILE – So far, this year’s forest fire season in Chile has affected three times more hectares of land than last year, Agriculture Minister Antonio Walker reported today.
He explained that this represents a total of 15,203 hectares burned in 2,378 fires since July, although the season lasts until the month of March 2020.
The minister warned that although climate change has contributed to the propagation of forest fires due to intense drought and higher than normal temperatures, the level of intentionality in the incidents has also increased.
Walker referred to a violent forest fire that broke out on December 24 in the Valparaiso region, very close to inhabited areas of the upper part of that city, which destroyed 245 homes.
According to authorities and the testimonies of local residents, the fire could have been intentionally started. Walker stressed that criminals causing such enormous damage will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law.
In this regard, he noted that while there were high temperatures and low relative humidity conditions, they were not sufficient to explain the extent of the fires that have been seen.
He explained that a budget of about 63 billion pesos (approximately 85 million dollars) has been made available to tackle the forest fires, as well as 238 brigades of the National Forestry Corporation, formed by over 2,500 brigade members and 56 aircrafts.
He added that in addition to these State resources, the private sector is contributing to the efforts, raising the number of aircraft to one hundred and a total of 5,000 brigade members throughout the country.
The minister also warned that the situation may get worse in the summer months, a season which has just begun, and called to be alert to avoid as far as possible the occurrence of forest fires.