SANTIAGO – Chile’s Onemi emergency management agency declared a red alert on Tuesday in the face of out-of-control wildfires.
The declaration provides authorities the means to mobilize additional resources to battle the flames.
The most serious situation is in the Melipeuco area, 700 kilometers (434 miles) south of Santiago, while a fire that started two weeks ago has devastated 4,530 hectares (11,145 acres) of mostly old forest in the China Muerta National Reserve.
Also affected is neighboring Conguillio National Park, where 17.3 hectares (nearly 48 acres) were destroyed Tuesday in a sector where the flames were considered under control two days ago.
Those fires and a third in the Nalca Lolco forest reserve near Lonquimay remain uncontrolled and are likely to grow in both extension and intensity, Onemi said.
Hundreds of Chilean forest service firefighters were joined Monday on the front lines by some 30 Argentine specialists, but the fires continue to advance.
Weather conditions and the zone’s mountainous terrain hamper airborne firefighting efforts, but there were plans Tuesday to deploy helicopters to drop fire retardant chemicals on the flames.