Devastating blazes prompt Chile to confront fire risk


As of late March, Chile had experienced more than 5,000 wildfires in the 2023-24 fire season. (Photo courtesy of Chilean government)

Wildfires in the Valparaíso region of central Chile produced the country’s highest human death toll from a natural disaster since its 2010 earthquake, prompting fresh legislation and debate on Chile’s growing incidence of large-scale conflagrations. The Valparaíso fires started on Feb. 2 in the forested hills inside the Lago Peñuelas National Reserve, located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Viña del Mar and Quilpué. It quickly expanded to the outskirts of both cities, ultimately killing 134 people—this century’s second-deadliest wildfire worldwide after Australia’s Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009. The blazes, believed to have begun with an intentionally set fire, blackened over 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) and destroyed thousands of homes in two days. Firefighters could not control flames that raced along stream valleys, incinerating entire streetscapes and neighborhoods. The blazes reached the coastal resort city of Viña del Mar, home to about 350,000 people, within six... [Log in to read more]

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