SANTIAGO – Two fires have destroyed about 2,800 hectares (6,900 acres) of forest in Melipilla, 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Santiago, and putting them out is being made difficult by strong winds and high temperatures, Chilean authorities said Wednesday.
For the moment, authorities are not ordering any new evacuations from the zone after on Tuesday about 10 homes and a school had to be vacated, the regional director of the Onemi emergency management agency, Miguel Muñoz, told Cooperativa radio.
Because of the fires and other incidents that have affected mountainous areas near the capital, Onemi declared a red alert in the Santiago metropolitan region.
Although for the moment, the flames are tending to diminish, the wind is periodically reviving them again and this is affecting the efforts of firefighters to extinguish the blazes.
According to preliminary information provided by the Agriculture Ministry, the fire broke out when someone discarded a still-lit cigarette butt.
High temperatures during this time of year – the Southern Hemisphere’s summer – make forest fires a frequent occurrence in Chile.