Chile receives international aid for wildfire crisis

Firefighters Venezuela arrive Santiago, Chile

Above: Firefighters from Venezuela arrive at Santiago, Chile January 29 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(UPDATED at 1645 Chile time January 31, 2017, to include additional funds provided to Chile by the United States.)

At least nine countries are sending various forms of aid to Chile to help deal with what President Michelle Bachelet has called the worst forest disaster in Chile’s history.

As of January 30 there were at least 58 active wildfires that have burned 1,047 homes and killed 11 people, including four firefighters and the pilot of a single engine air tanker.

sat map wildfire Chile
NASA satellite photo showing smoke from wildfires in southern Chile on January 31, 2017. The red dots represent heat.
Spain, France, and Portugal have each sent over 50 firefighters, while Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico have also mobilized firefighters to Chile.

Brazil is contributing the use of a C-130 with a slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS), and the Russian IL-76 air tanker arrived on January 30.

The United States sent four wildfire specialists from the U.S. Forest Service and also activated five local consultants in Chile to liaise with national authorities and help coordinate response activities. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) committed $100,000 to Caritas, a local non-governmental organization associated with the Catholic Church, for the regional procurement and delivery of firefighting equipment.

On Tuesday afternoon the U.S. Embassy in Chile announced that an additional $740,000 is being provided. The U.S. Agency for International Development, through its office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), will donate $500,000 to support the humanitarian needs of communities affected by the wildfires and $200,000 USD worth of personal protective equipment to those fighting the fires. Additionally, $20,000 USD will be donated to Caritas for tools needed to build firebreaks.

This disaster assistance comes in addition to a donation of $20,000 USD made to the non-profit ADRA, for personal hygiene kits which were recently distributed to affected residents of Santa Olga, a town that was completely destroyed by the fires.

A grandson of the founder of WalMart, Ben Walton with his wife Lucy Ana, are funding through the family’s foundation system the initial deployment and use of the privately owned 747 SuperTanker out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. Other non-governmental organizations have expressed interest in helping to provide additional financing for the aircraft in Chile.

Ahora Noticias is reporting that the government of Chile has contracted for four firefighting helicopters to be brought in on an Antonov freighter aircraft. The aircraft are expected to be one K-MAX and three Bell 205’s. There may also be some large Air-Crane helicopters arriving to assist the firefighters on the ground.

Last week President Bachelet declared a state of emergency which authorizes additional authority for the military. We explored the possibility of driving several hours away to report on the fire activity, but were told by local fire personnel that we would encounter numerous checkpoints that could make travel difficult.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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4 thoughts on “Chile receives international aid for wildfire crisis”

  1. Hello, im a chilean living in and seeing from my country what I had never see before in all my life.

    It breaks the heart to see all the beautifull forest, wild life, people, domestics puppies and cats, or farm animals with their foot burn, or hurt, the hair burn.
    Many here are suffering to much

    Tank You A Lot Bill to tell people what is happened here. I really like what you told, because is exactly what it is going, the true.

    I wanted to send all my love for the north americans who are helping us against the fire, and all the people that from one or other way are helping to this disaster.

    Please….. Thank You Very Much and please… Don’t forget about us.
    The nature is hurt

    ❤️

  2. Sofia, thank you for your message. I am a Chilean abroad too and I also feel so sad for Chile and the terrible damage the fires are causing. They seem to be caused by a mixture of global warming and possibly arson. The help from abroad is wonderful, but I feel that if there were more help the fires might be extinguished sooner. It would seem that a country is going up in flames. The fires will not spread to other countries as the barrier of the Andes to the east, the Atacama Desert to the north, and the sea to the west and various islands to the south will contain it on Chilean soil. Please international community, United Nations, please save Chile from further devastation. This is worse than an earthquake. Poor Chile, so affected by the vicissitudes of ‘nature’ (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and forest fires).

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