SANTO DOMINGO, Chile – A forest fire has destroyed more than 1,500 hectares (3,750 acres) of woodlands in the mountains near the Chilean town of Santo Domingo, where firefighters from all over the country are battling the flames to try and keep them away from populated areas.
According to the National Early Warning Center, by midday on Saturday 26 forest fires had been reported around the country, with seven of them active and not yet under control, 10 of them under control and nine having been extinguished.
The most dangerous of the fires is known as the San Guillermo fire in Santo Domingo, located 120 km (about 75 mi.) southwest of Santiago near the coast, where firefighters and two helicopters with the National Forest Corporation (Conaf) are working to quell the blaze.
In addition, army and navy brigades, along with firefighters from the towns of Santo Domingo, San Antonio, Algarrobo, Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, Casablanca, Navidad and Rapel are combining their efforts to deal with the fire.
In the past few hours, a Chilean air force plane transported 46 firefighters from the cities of Punta Arenas, Puerto Aysen and Puerto Montt to provide additional support for the fire crews already on the job.
Conaf has issued four red fire alerts, the first two in the Valparaiso, Puchuncavi and Nogales region, another in the town of Santo Domingo and one in the community of Navidad in the O’Higgins region, where another fire has consumed 385 hectares.
Other lesser alerts have been issued for other areas of the country where fires have been detected.
Two Chilean lawmakers – Sen. Francisco Chahuan and Congresswoman Catalina del Real, both with the National Renewal party – told reporters that they had been in contact with the Russian government to officially ask for the use of an amphibious Beriev Be-200 aircraft specially designed to fight forest fires with loads of 13,000 liters (about 3,450 gallons) of water that can be dumped on the flames while in flight.