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Santiago, Dec 13 (UiTV/IANS) – Up to 1,587 forest fires have razed more than 13,000 hectares of land in Chile this year, Agriculture Minister Esteban Valenzuela said.
While the fires were 9 per cent fewer than those of the last season, they were more dangerous, leading to “40 per cent more damaged hectares”, Xinhua news agency quoted the Minister as saying.
To combat forest fires, the government has invested 82 billion pesos ($94 million) to establish 243 forestry brigades across the country, he said.
Climate change has worsened forest fires in Chile, just as it has in Spain, France and the US, especially the west coast state of California, according to Valenzuela.
Currently, authorities are combating 11 forest fires around the country, eight of which have received a red alert from the National Emergency Office because they are spreading rapidly and threatening nearby homes and communities, he said.
Aircraft equipped with thermal cameras that can detect the location of hot spots are helping monitor blazes and dispatch brigade members, said Pablo Lobos, the head of Forest Fire Protection at the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf).
This year, the government beefed up Conaf’s firefighting budget by 30 per cent.
According to data from Conaf, 35 per cent of forest fires were caused intentionally, and some 52 per cent by negligence or accidents.