“We had slightly fewer fires, but 40% more hectares damaged. 243 forestry brigades have already been established throughout the country, 100% of what has been committed to date has been achieved, more than 82 billion dollars of work to be done. As the President of the Republic has stated, the most important thing is the people, and in this I want to recognize the Chilean firefighters who have collaborated in the interface of the peri-urban areas, which has been very important in taking care of the houses, homes, and for certain people”, with these words the Minister of Agriculture, Esteban Valenzuela, detailed the situation of forest fires today.
To date, according to government data, 1,587 forest fires have occurred in the country, which implies 9% less than the previous season, but more than 13,000 hectares have been affected, which implies 40% more than the previous season. previous season. To date, 11 forest fires are being fought, of which 8 are on red alert by Onemi.
Among the fires on red alert, the most serious at the moment are the Loica fires in the municipality of San Pedro in the Metropolitan Region, affecting 800 hectares; that of Melipilla with 900 hectares involved; and the Viña del Mar Botanical Garden with 110 hectares.
The Conaf Forest Fire Protection Manager, Pablo Lobos, detailed the field work of this service and said that “we have our observation and coordination plans very soon with which it is possible to see live images of what is happening. They have thermal cameras that tell us where the hot spots are, so we’re deploying our ground or air combat forces to cool those spots in order to avoid regrowth in the busiest hours.”
called to the people
Minister Valenzuela has called on people to be co-responsible for the fires. “As we know this year it rained more, there is more combustible material, grass, etc. And the heat was enormous (…) This fire season calls for co-responsibility. We will work with the Subdere, to work with municipalities, especially municipalities in urban areas, with a high prevalence of fires, so that we can get converging funds to reduce them,” the authority said.
“Also a wake-up call. One of the alarms in Melipilla, which covers more than three hundred hectares, is because there is a landfill and here we must all respect the law and not rhetoric, but go for structural solutions,” added Valenzuela.
Along the same lines, the Conaf executive also asked people to trust the work done by the Red Brigades. “There are local people who take some high-risk actions, with the intention of preventing the fire from affecting their properties. We have identified some that have backfired, which have not worked and have made our work more complex, endangering our members of the brigade, who are the fundamental pillar of the protection system,” said Lobos.
Minister Valenzuela referred to the increase shown by the Conaf budget, which has risen this year by 30%. “We are at an average of thirty fires a day. We knew that, as it was in the northern hemisphere, in the United States, in Europe, in Spain, in France and dramatically in California, this will affect us due to the climate crisis, but we must act as much as possible, the President of the Republic has done grow our entire fire program resources 30 percent this year and all resources are committed,” he said.
For his part, Pablo Lobos also ensured that, in recent years, the work of CONAF has increased exponentially. “Before the firestorm, the protection system had 15 aircraft nationwide, today we have 63. As for land resources, we had 162, today 283. We are strengthening prevention throughout the year, coordinating with public and private organizations, working with companies associated with Corma, forest companies (…) We have rotary-wing aircraft, helicopters of different categories, heavy aircraft.In land resources, traditional brigades, with our own resource base, they are our brigade members, in addition to the mechanized ones,” he explained.
In terms of intentionality, the CONAF studies show that of the 100% of the fires produced, 52% are due to negligence or accident, 12% have an unknown origin or are under investigation, 1% have a natural origin and 35% % of fires are attributed with intentionality.
In this sense, the minister Esteban Valenzuela has appealed the accusation. “This cannot go unpunished and we reiterate the invitation to the national prosecutor’s office to act on the matter and, given the information provided by Conaf, to be much more proactive in avoiding impunity in arson”, he said.