Aftermath in Viña del Mar, Chile

December 2022 in Chile was marked by record hot temperatures, with wildfires burning around the capital city of Santiago and producing persistent smoke and public health impacts. On December 22, a fire in a forested canyon of Tranque Sur burned into the coastal resort city of Viña Del Mar (north of Valparaiso), resulting in one death, many injured, and more than 100 homes destroyed. Chile’s president declared a state of emergency and catastrophe. A week later and 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of Viña Del Mar, firefighters responded to a fire in the Galvarino commune where a single-engine air tanker crashed on December 31, killing the pilot, Luis Sevillano Moreno, a Spanish national. 

For the early months of 2023, the forecast for Chile continues for hot, dry conditions.

A Chilean photojournalist, Carlos Vera Mancilla, was at Viña Del Mar as the fire was being controlled. Vera Mancilla has photographed many wildfires and their impacts, including a photo series in the January-February 2017 issue of Wildfire Magazine (https://www.iawfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/26.1-Jan-Feb-2017-Wildfire-Final-Web-1.pdf) and excerpted below. One of his earlier photographs, from the 2016 protests in Santiago organized by relatives of the “disappeared”, gained acclaim as an image that conveyed the changing state of democracy in his country: https://www.cnn.com/2016/09/14/americas/chile-girl-protest-photo/index.html. 

Here is what he witnessed in 2022 in Viña Del Mar, with captions drawn from his notes. 

Vina De Mar, Chile - Day 2 Fire Control
Viña del Mar – Alto Forestry Sector. The remaining fires are being controlled on Day 2 (December 23, 2022). Displaced residents look on from the burned Tranque Sur urban sector of “autoconstrucción viviendas” — homes that were self-constructed, built by the residents and community members, sometimes referred to as “mutual aid” — more at https://infoinvi.uchilefau.cl/glosario/autoconstruccion/. The burned houses bordered along real estate and resort complexes. Photo: Carlos Vera Mancilla.
Vina Del Mar, Chile - debris removal.
Authorities and local citizens work in solidarity as they remove debris from burned buildings and provide humanitarian assistance. Photo: Carlos Vera Mancilla.
Vina Del Mar, Chile - a resident's sorrow.
Because of negative situations that occurred recently with the national press, I did not dare to consult his name — his sorrow collapsing with the Tranque Sur’s destructive fire. Photo: Carlos Vera Mancilla.
Vina Del Mar, Chile - a forest-urban fire.
A forest and urban fire. With the desolation of nature and the inhabiting community, there is no convincing explanation for the community of what happened, nor resignation to the disaster as recovery begins. Photo: Carlos Vera Mancilla.

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Photos of fire damages from January 2017 in Valparaiso, Chile, by Carlos Vera Mancilla, from the January-February 2017 issue of Wildfire Magazine.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.