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Outrage in Chile: residents say massive forest fires were intentionally set

These fires fed on extreme weather conditions and high winds, and also displayed signs of orchestrated intent. The fire ignited with four simultaneous outbreaks in the Las Tablas sector and the Peñuelas Lake Reserve.

  • 1 month ago
  • May 16, 2024
3 min read
The mega forest and urban fire on February 2 and 3, 2024, in Quilpué and Viña del Mar, Chile remain one of the most devastating fires in the history of the country. | Photo courtesy of Jorge Robledo Zúñiga The mega forest and urban fire on February 2 and 3, 2024, in Quilpué and Viña del Mar, Chile remain one of the most devastating fires in the history of the country. | Photo courtesy of Jorge Robledo Zúñiga
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VALPARAÍSO, Chile — “We were burned by the Cartel del Fuego,” became the resounding sentiment throughout Valparaiso in Chile recently. The community has overwhelmingly pointed the finger for the wildfires at the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MINVU). News outlets reported that Rodrigo Mundaca, governor of the Valparaiso region, believes some of the fires to be intentional. President Gabriel Boric voiced a similar theory.

These implications claim a link between the fires and future development plans in the area, notably the Peripheral Route of Valparaiso. Locals suspect the disastrous events they endured in which 131 died and 300 went missing, cleared the way for development.

Video footage of the landscape and interviews with residents capture the tragedy

An exclusive Orato interview with residents who experienced the devastating fire that scorched hundreds of thousands of hectares in Viña del Mar and Quilpué, Chile.

In early February 2024, catastrophic wildfires ravaged Viña del Mar and Quilpué. These fires fed on extreme weather conditions and high winds, displaying signs of orchestrated intent. The fire ignited with four simultaneous outbreaks in the Las Tablas sector and the Peñuelas Lake Reserve. The tragedy became the deadliest wildfire in Chile’s history.

Read more stories from Orato World Media out of Chile.

The fires ravaged significant areas of Viña del Mar, consuming almost all of its renowned botanical gardens. Often called Chile’s “garden city,” Viña del Mar turned into a scene of smoke, ashes, and despair. The destruction affected thousands of homes and led to significant loss of life, with many people still unaccounted for.

This disaster not only spotlighted the vulnerabilities in urban and forest management but also revealed deep issues in the housing sectors of these cities. Many homes constructed from flammable materials remain in crowded, high-risk areas. Consequently, the tragedy sparked widespread calls for improved preparedness and urban planning to reduce future fire risks.

Explore one of our photo galleries to see the full impact of the flames.

The fires scorched over 8,500 hectares and destroyed about 6,000 homes, underscoring the scale and impact of the disaster. High temperatures, dry conditions, the El Niño phenomenon, and a summer heatwave affecting South America exacerbated the situation. Temperatures record highs.

Original video interview conducted and recorded by Jorge Robledo Zúñiga.

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