Fire prevention mascot in Chile

ForestinThe United States has Smokey Bear for wildfire prevention and Woodsy Owl to promote caring for the environment. Chile has one mascot, Forestín, for both of these activities, and more.

According to Wikipedia:

Forestín is the official mascot of the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) of Chile. It is a coypu (nutria) which can serve as fire brigade (yellow fire resistant jacket and helmet), park ranger (green shirt and quepi) or forester (yellow shirt and green planter), which was designed to educate the public about the dangers of forest fires.

Forestín was introduced to the public in 1976 and since then has evolved.


Here are a couple of videos showing Forestín in action.

Border collies help reseed after forest fire

Above:  Dog trainer Francisca Torres and her three border collies. Screenshot from the video below.

Three border collies are helping to reseed areas in Chile that burned during the siege of wildfires that blackened large sections of the country in January of 2017.

The high-energy dogs are outfitted with pouches containing native seed. As they run through the burned trees the seeds are distributed along their path.

Interview with a lead plane pilot in Chile

In case you missed it, here is the interview we conducted with veteran lead plane pilot Jamie Tackman in January after he had been working with the 19,200-gallon 747 Supertanker in Chile.

After 17 years as a ground based wildland firefighter in the United States, with much as it as a smokejumper, Jamie transitioned to the air, becoming a lead plane pilot. He has worked off and on with the 747 air tankers since Evergreen converted the first one. Now retired from the U.S. Forest Service, he traveled to Chile to provide lead plane services for the huge aircraft operated by Global SuperTankers. This time he had a different role, or at least a different platform, flying ahead of the air tanker as usual but in an aircraft flown by military pilots.

Bill Gabbert interviewed Jamie, who began by describing the situation. Chile has no infrastructure for supervising, using, or refilling large or very large air tankers and they were unfamiliar with the concept of lead planes. In spite of these challenges the personnel working with the 747 and the other aircraft developed procedures to fight the fires from the air, while the local firefighters improvised a system on the ground for refilling the 747 and the IL-76 with water.

747 Supertanker in Santiago, Chile,
The 747 Supertanker being reloaded in Santiago, Chile, January 28, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Climate change and the wildfires in Chile

During the current statistical period which runs from July through June wildfires in Chile have burned 601,367Ha (1.5 million acres) which is 924 percent of average for the entire 12-month period. That fact alone does not prove anything but it can trigger a need to look at the factors involved.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Huffington Post:

Santiago, Chile and Los Angeles, California lie roughly the same distance from the equator and are subject to the same climatological forces. Both areas have endured years of record-breaking drought that has thinned forests and desiccated farms. In the summer heat, when winds pick up, fires can start easily and spread rapidly through dried vegetation.

For this, blame climate change. Heat-trapping carbon pollution is driving temperatures up across the globe, setting the conditions for severe heat, persistent dry spells and a high risk of fire. A recent study found that 25 percent of central Chile’s rainfall deficit could be attributed to human-caused climate change. Consistent with planetary warming, Chile is breaking heat records right and left. California is doing the same.

In looking at the chart above, increased emissions of greenhouse gasses did not CAUSE the fires in Chile, but it is possible that their effects created an environment that made it possible for wildfires, once ignited, to spread more quickly than they would have otherwise, and were more resistant to control.

Wildfires continue in Chile

Above: Tanker 03, a BAe-146, in Chile. Neptune photo.

The number of active wildfires in Chile has varied from week to week depending on the weather, but the drought-driven situation that has plagued Chile since December is still of great concern to the residents of the country —  especially since more than 1,000 homes burned in Santa Olga on January 25.

The tweet below refers to a fire in the Maule Region.

The 747 Supertanker returned to Colorado Springs on February 13 after being in Chile for three weeks. The Russian IL-76 is still there but is expected to depart on February 25.

Neptune’s Tanker 03, a BAe-146, arrived in the country February 4. It has completed 20 missions dropping on fires, but a spokesperson for the company told us today it has not flown since February 14. It is committed to remain in Chile through the end of this month.

IL-76 747 Supertanker air tanker chile
The Russian IL-76 (in the foreground) taxis past the 747, January 30, ,2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
IL-76 air tanker chile Santiago
The Russian IL-76 at Santiago, Chile January 30 shortly after it arrived in the country. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Wildfire expert from Spain analyzes fires in Chile

The fires have burned more than nine times the average number of acres.

The wildfires that have occurred in Chile over the last two months have attracted the attention of meteorologists, climate scientists, and wildland fire managers worldwide. During the current statistical period which runs from July through June the blazes have burned 601,367Ha (1.5 million acres) which is 924 percent of average for the 12-month period.

The organization that deals most closely with fires in Chile is not the national or regional government, but is CONAF.

From Wikipedia:

The National Forest Corporation or CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal) is a Chilean private, non-profit organization, through which the Chilean state contributes to the development and sustainable management of the country’s forest resources. CONAF is overseen and funded by the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile.

It administers the forest policies of Chile and promotes the development of the sector with sustainable forest management.

CONAF has been criticised in recent weeks for their response to the fires and their procedures for awarding contracts to international companies that provide firefighting helicopters and single engine air tankers.

Recently a group of wildland fire specialists from Europe visited Chile to evaluate the rash of fires in the country. One of them was Marc Castellnou, the Strategic Fire Analyst for the Government of Catalonia’s national fire services. Catalonia is a region in northeast Spain. In 2015 Mr. Castellnou received the Wildland Fire Safety Award from the International Association of Wildland Fire.

Safety Award wildland fire
Prof. Domingos Viegas (left), 2016 Wildland Fire Safety Award Recipient with Marc Castellnou, 2015 Safety Award Recipient at 14th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit, Barcelona, Spain. Photo by International Association of Wildland Fire.

CONAF held a press conference and published some of the fire specialists’ findings. Below is an excerpt from their summary. It has been automatically translated by Google and is a little rough.

…Marc Castellnou, one of the 14 specialists from the European Union Civil Protection System and an expert in the analysis of forest fire behavior, said that this tragedy was caused by three factors: temperature records, water stress of vegetation and Anticyclonic lock. The accumulation of fuel caused by eight years of drought is another contributing factor in the generation of the phenomenon.

The high simultaneity of fires with numerous hectares of fire, Castellnou explained, through meteorological studies through which he concluded that here was a real “storm of fire.” He gives as an example the fire of the Machines, in the Region of the Maule, where in 14 hours burned 115 thousand hectares [284,000 acres]. There, says the expert, the fire advanced with a speed of 6 kilometers for hours with an intensity of 60 thousand kilowatts, something that had not been seen so far worldwide.

This fire, he said, modified the atmosphere, as demonstrated by satellite imagery in which it can be seen how the column of smoke caused by the fires covers much of the Pacific Ocean and feeds on cold currents to continue advancing. An example of what is expressed is the analysis of temperatures recorded on Robinson Crusoe Island [map], where on the night of January 25th to 26th the temperature rose above its normal ranges and the humidity dropped remarkably as an effect of these megaincendios [megafire] at a distance of about 800 kilometers [497 miles].