SANTIAGO – A total of 19 forest fires continue to burn in five Chilean regions, according a statement released Sunday by the National Emergency Office, or Onemi.
According to figures compiled by the National Forestry Corporation, or Conaf, up through March 12 the fires had burned some 763 hectares (about 1,900 acres) of vegetation in the provinces of O’Higgins, Biobio, La Araucania, Los Rios and Los Lagos.
Another 40 fires have been brought under control in the regions of Valparaiso, Biobio, La Araucania, Los Rios, Los Lagos and Aysen, affecting some 4,744 hectares (11,860 acres), the report said.
Another 13 fires have been extinguished in Valparaiso, Metropolitana, Maule, Biobio, La Araucania, Los Rios and Los Lagos after burning some 16 hectares (40 acres).
Among the fires brought under control so far is one in the El Cipres nature preserve in central Chile, a region known for its 1,800-year-old cypress trees.
According to the Onemi report, the fire consumed 745 hectares (1,863 acres) of forest, scrub brush and pasture but did not harm the cypresses.
The mayor of the town of San Felipe, Patricio Freire, said he regretted the fire, given that the nature park attracts international scientists to study the cypress species. “A lot of damage has been done to this tourist sector,” he said.
An investigation is under way into the cause of the fire, and authorities say that arson – or human negligence – has not been ruled out.
“It’s a place frequently visited by horseback riders, cyclists, mountain hikers,” said San Felipe municipality governor Eduardo Leon.