Since 30 January 2023, a series of wildfires have been reported in the South American country of Chile. By early February 2023, it escalated into a large wildfire breakout of at least 406 individual fires. Several of them identified in the ‘red alert’ category, affecting over 430,000 hectares (1,100,000 acres) of area. This has caused the government to declare a state of emergency in multiple regions of the country.

Most affected areas are:

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Cause of the fire:

  • Although these wildfires may have been directly or indirectly caused by human elements, the underlying drought conditions have contributed to the severity of the wildfires. These can be attributed to a mix of worsening climate change conditions and the Pacific weather pattern known as La Niña.
  • The fires coincided with an unprecedented heat wave in the south of the country, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius in southern areas.
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  • The recent forest fires have resulted in 26 casualties and left over 2,000 injured. The forest fires left thousands homeless in central and southern Chile.
  • Biobío concentrates the highest number of deaths as of Tuesday (28February) with 17 cases, followed by La Araucanía (8) and Ñuble (1).
  • The most affected areas, where the Government of Gabriel Boric has decreed a state of constitutional exception of catastrophe to deal with the emergency, are: Ñuble, Biobío and La Araucanía (located 400, 500 and 700 kilometers south of Santiago, respectively).
  • Red alerts have been declared for the districts of Longavi, Cauquenes, Chanco,Pencahue, Sagrada Familia, and Curepto in the Maule Region, Coral, Valdivia, and Mariquina in Los Rios, and the district of Palena in the Los Lagos region.

Latest developments:

  • As of Monday (27 February), nationwide there are 224 developing forest fires. Of them, 26 are in combat, 159 controlled, 28 extinct and 11 under observation.
  • More than 300,000 hectares of area burned in the regions of Maule, Ñuble, Biobío and Araucanía.
  • On Tuesday (28 February), Chile’s National Forestry Corporation (Conaf) declared the forest fire, known as “Santa Ana” which affected several communities in the Biobío Region for 25 days, under control. Containment prevented the fire from spreading to San Pedro de la Paz after having crossed the communes of Nacimiento, Santa Juana and Coronel, in Biobío.
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Things to do before Forest Fire:


  • Organisations located in regions where frequent forest fires occur are advised to consider installing outside sprinklers for exposure protection and ensure the system has an adequate water supply. It is also advised to review the insurance coverage to make sure that it is enough to replace the property in adverse situation.
  • It is also advised to seal building openings with tight-fitting and noncombustible doors or shutters and to cover vents with wire mesh. The same would prove beneficial when implementing the wildfire rescue plan.
  • Organisations are advised to create a fire-resistant zone for at least 100 feet from the building, which is free of leaves and other flammable materials. For grassland and woodland fires, a fire-resistant zone should be 330 feet.
  • Employees should be given adequate training about wildfire risks and preparedness.


  • Employees living in the fire prone areas must be trained well to deal with severe fires so that in case of forest emergencies least damage and injuries are caused. Most of the local departments in fire prone areas would provide these education programs for safety of the local residents.
  • During inspection of household, individuals should make sure that the nearby trees should have a 10-foot horizontal clearance from the property. The trees should be properly trimmed. The branches of the trees should not hang over the roof, touch any structure, or grow under eaves or near a chimney. Also, removal of dead and dangling limbs of the tress and keep a clearance of at least six feet between the ground and the lowest branches.
  • If there is extra firewood or gas tank present in the house, then keep it at least 20 feet away from the house. Do not keep firewoods under a deck or balcony or any other exposed area.
  • In high-risk areas make sure to use approved fire resistant materials when building, renovating or retrofitting structures.
  • Keep all important IDs and papers with you or at an accessible location, make copies and keep it safely somewhere away from the original papers so that it would be easier to recover the lost documents.
  • Always keep an emergency bag ready so that in case of evacuation, an individual can leave the dangerous area as soon as possible.

During Forest Fire:


  • In case of a wildfire emergency, it is advised to gather emergency supplies, including N95 respirator masks that can filter out particles in the air while breathing. People should keep in mind their specific needs including an action plan for people suffering from respiratory illness.
  • During a wildfire, it is advised to pay attention to air quality alerts, evacuation orders that are usually swift for impacted areas.
  • Employees trapped in a building are advised to call emergency contacts and give their location, shut down building air intakes and turn off unnecessary utilities. It is advised to use an N95 mask to keep out harmful particles as you breathe.
  • Organisations that sell or use highly combustible materials should consider removing them from the property until the threat or evacuation alert has passed.
  • Employees are advised to follow workplace wildfire responses/ evacuation policy.


  • If the forest fire increases, then people should immediately vacate the properties near the high alert zone. Things people should carry with them are in an emergency bag, hiking bag, emergency medicines and first aid kit, government documents (Passport), extra keys (both cars and house), water (supply should not for more than 3 days), flashlights with new batteries, deep-freeze non-perishable meals, essential tools like knives and pliers, paracord, carabiners, a jacket, blanket, clothes and personal hygiene products.
  • Detach electrical garage doors.
  • After evacuation, take shelter in local relief centre and shelters.
  • Turn off air conditioning/air circulation systems.
  • Keep phones charged at all times. Keep the numbers for fire department and ambulance on your phone.


  • Monitor news for disaster alerts in your area to be well prepared for the fires. It is advised to visit the official website of SENAPRED (https://senapred.cl/) for further updates.
  • After evacuation, take shelter in local relief centre and shelters.
  • It is advised to avoid the area due to the risks emanating from the large wildfire and possible fire-led disruptions such as road closures and poor air quality.

After Forest fires


  • In the aftermath of a wildfire situation, it is advised to examine all heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, clean surface areas and replace filters before resuming operation.
  • Check the roofs, decks and other exterior areas for sparks and embers.
  • Wildfires can lead to an increased risk of flooding due to heavy rains or mudflows. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored up to 5 years after a wildfire, thus, organisations can consider purchasing flood insurance to assure financial protection from future flooding.


  • After the fires have burnt out, contact the local fire departments to confirm the status of fire before going back to the house.
  • Enter the burnt areas with great caution as flare-ups can occur.
  • Check the grounds of burnt areas for hot spots, smouldering stumps and vegetation. In case the ground is hot then use lots of buckets of water to cool down the hotspots.
  • Check the house thoroughly including the garage and attic for any possible hidden burning, sparks and embers.
  • Continue to check the abovementioned areas in the homes for several days for possible flare-ups.
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Emergency contacts

  • Emergency services: 131
  • Firemen: 132
  • Police: 133 (emergency number)/911

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