SANTIAGO – Chile’s government estimates that the extent of forest devastated by fire during the current season will double compared with the previous period, the agriculture minister said Monday.
“We’ve predicted that wildfires will burn some 70,000 hectares (172,974 acres) this year,” Antonio Walker told a press conference, adding that the projection was based on the likelihood of persistent high temperatures, low humidity and stiff winds.
While 2,100 wildfires have consumed 9,206 hectares since the start of the season on July 1, no lives have been lost.
The fire risk is highest in January and February at the peak of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
“The weather forecast is very favorable to fires,” the minister said.
Over the last decade, the annual average fire loss was 50,000 hectares, but the blazes that swept across central and southern Chile in 2017 consumed 600,000 hectares.
Walker said the country is ready to face the wildfire season, with $78 million earmarked to fund the operations of 2,800 firefighters supported by more than 40 aircraft.