Wildfires Burn in Central Chile
Forest fire raging outside of Santiago
Over the last couple of weeks, central Chile has been hit by some of the worst wildfires in the country’s history with close to 600,000 hectares (about 1.4 million acres or over 2,000 square miles) of mountain land being burned or charred between the 5th and 9th Regions.
This time of year is the height of summer in Chile and an abnormal heat wave (hundred degree temperatures with sustained 10 to 15 mile per hour winds) combined with numerous starting points have caused this to be the largest disaster to hit central Chile since the earthquake and tsunami of 2010.
So far, eleven people have been killed–including police officers, fire fighters, and forestry workers–over 1,000 homes have been destroyed, and well over 5,000 people have been displaced.
A couple of my American friends who live just west of Talca lost their house in one of the fires and the town of Santa Olga, where I’ve done some work in the past, was almost completely burned to the ground.
For a number of days last week local firefighting units were completely overwhelmed and smoke from the fires filled the central valley.
Now with the help of firefighting brigades from around the world, including a Colorado-based Chilean/American couple who sent their Evergreen 747 supertanker down for a week, the fires in this part of the country are largely under control.
As unsettling as the fires have been, I must admit I have been touched by the response that has come as a result of the situation.
Last weekend on the Ruta 5 (the main north-south highway in the country), more than half the cars on the road were loaded up with bottled water, food, and other emergency supplies, on their way to the affected areas.
There were so many people coming down to donate things and volunteer that the highway patrol eventually had to shut down the primary road to the coast heading out of Talca due to such heavy congestion.
Local schools, businesses, radio stations, and social organizations have been helping out and within a couple days of hearing about what had happened, a number of friends and clients from the states have been asking about how they can get involved.
Even AirBnB has been trying to help provide free or reduced priced housing for those that are helping with the efforts.
Many of my Chilean friends have said that in past emergency situations here, there is an initial wave of support provided right after the event, in large part by the local community. and then a larger government relief plan that kicks in anywhere from one to three months later.
They said that the period between two and six weeks after the event is often times the hardest for the people who were affected.
I spend quite a bit of time in some of the coastal towns very close to where many of these fires occurred and over the next couple days I’m going to be driving out to these areas to talk to people I know to see if there are any specific situations where things could be of use.
With so much of the hillsides scorched, there has apparently been a shortage of feed for animals on farms and ranches in the coastal range and am personally planning on donating a couple hundred bales of hay over the next few weeks. I heard that the Catholic University, Universidad Catholic de Maule, recently sent 600 bales to the central coast during the week.
If you’d like information on ways to donate or volunteer, send a reply to this email (www.darrenkaiser.com, with what you might like to share and I’ll keep you in the loop as to individual situations I come across while I’m traveling over the next few days.
Darren is a developer and expert in real estate investment in Chile. We recommend him as an
investment consultant in the Talca area. He also conducts both private and group real estate tours near Talca, in the Maule Region, a prime farming area. Information about those tours is at his web site. Real Estate Tours. He is author of Where to Buy Chilean Real Estate in 2014. He lives near Talca, in the Maule Region. His web site is www.darrenkaiser.com.