SANTIAGO – A fire has consumed 12 hectares (29.7 acres) of woodland on San Cristobal Mountain, the largest park in the capital city of Santiago, Chilean authorities said on Tuesday.
The fire was spotted Monday afternoon and the blaze appeared to be under control until it flared again overnight, forcing authorities to issue an alert for nearby residential areas.
Initially, the fire was thought to have affected 40 hectares of San Cristobal, but acting park director Hernan Merino said that the actual extent of the flames was much smaller.
The fire, which started on the northwestern slope, was “apparently due to someone’s negligence,” Merino said, alluding to the homeless people who camp out in the area.
“We cannot rule out any possibility regarding the cause of the fire,” police inspector Andres Barrios said, adding that forensics teams would investigate to determine responsibility for the blaze.
Barrios said that the fire could have been caused by the combination of Monday’s high temperatures in Santiago – where the thermometer reached 35 C (95 F) – with “a lot of flammable vegetation and prevailing afternoon winds.”
Forest rangers and firefighters have been battling the flames since Monday.
The Santiago Metropolitan Park, as it is officially known, encompasses 1,780 hectares of San Cristobal, Chacarillas and Los Gemelos mountains.
Opened in 1903, the park’s summit is crowned by the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception, famous for its large statue of the Virgin Mary. The park grounds include a zoo, a cable car, an aerial tramway, bicycle and hiking paths, restaurants, cultural centers and campsites.