Chile

Chile Severe Wildfires
Severe wildfires beginning in early January 2017 damaged vegetation across central and southern Chile.
Chile National Forest Corporation

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Key Developments

Wildfires that began in early January 2017 had affected an estimated 337,000 acres of vegetation in central and southern Chile as of January 24, prompting the Government of Chile (GoC) to maintain red alerts—the most severe alert category—for 14 of the 32 active fires. As of January 23, the GoC had evacuated more than 600 people from fire-affected sites; an estimated 14,000 people remained in areas threatened by two severe fires in Chile’s Maule and O’Higgins regions. In response to the fires, which were exacerbated by a heat wave and strong winds, the GoC deployed firefighting teams to fire-affected areas, declared a state of emergency, and requested international assistance to contain and extinguish the fires.

On January 21, U.S. Ambassador Carol Z. Perez declared a disaster due to the effects of the fires. In response, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) committed $100,000 to Caritas/Chile for the regional procurement and delivery of firefighting equipment. Additionally, USAID/OFDA coordinated with the U.S. Forest Service to deploy a four-person emergency response team of technical experts to assess the situation and advise local authorities. USAID/OFDA also activated four local consultants in Chile to liaise with national authorities and help coordinate response activities.

Background

Chile is highly vulnerable to a range of natural hazards, including earthquakes, forest fires, floods, and volcanic eruptions. When disaster strikes, USAID/OFDA works with national and local government officials, civil society organizations, and response partners to address humanitarian needs and complement government relief efforts. USAID/OFDA also supports multiple initiatives in Chile to improve the capacity of government officials, local communities, and non-governmental organizations to prepare for and respond to emergencies. For example, USAID/OFDA is assisting Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to increase vulnerable communities’ capacity to prevent and respond to wildfires. In coordination with Chile’s National Forest Corporation and local partner Caritas, CRS is developing and implementing a model for community-based wildfire prevention, including training firefighters, local disaster prevention and emergency management officials, municipal authorities, and individuals on wildfire preparedness, mitigation, and management techniques.

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Last updated: March 23, 2017

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