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Tuesday, January 31

Mortal Combat: Fighting Chile's wildfire infernos

This is the second time in two days I've offered condolences to people in another country about deaths of firefighters -- the first was Iran, which lost 16 firefighters when a burning hi-rise collapsed on them. So far Chile has lost five firefighters in the conflagrations that fanned by high winds, fed by prolonged drought and fueled by extremely high temperatures have ravaged 680,000 acres (273,000 hectares) in just over a week, displacing or killing every living creature in their path and destroying villages.

Yahoo's photo staff has collected 30 photographs of the fires, the destruction they've wrought and the efforts to fight them. Taken together the photos, taken by brave photographers for AP and Getty, are even more overwhelming than video in conveying the scope of the catastrophe, which at the least hasn't visited Chile on this scale for a half century, and which Chile's President has called unprecedented. Below are two of the photos. Reuters has also collected 23 photos of the wildfires and efforts to fight them.



The wildfires sweeping across central and southern Chile have been fought by volunteers and by professional firefighters from a growing number of countries; they're being fought on the ground by every means possible, from simple bucket brigades to sophisticated fire control methods and from the air as helicopters dump huge buckets of water and advanced firefighting planes dump water and spray chemical foams.

As to the grim question hanging over the fires -- from RT today, the answer could be yes:
The country’s authorities also suspect that the extreme speed at which the wildfires was spreading was as a result of possible ‘help’ from arsonists. According to [President] Bachelet, some 40 people have been detained for “possible responsibility” in fanning the deadly forest infernos.
More from RT's report, Russian firefighters arrive in Chile to help tackle unprecedented wildfires, posted at 1:42:
 Russian Ilyushin-76 water bombing aircraft
42-ton water carrying capabilities



A Russian Emergencies Ministry team is in Chile to help battle the worst wildfires to strike the country in five decades.

The EMERCOM firefighting team was deployed to Santiago at the request of the Chilean government on Monday.

READ MORE: State of emergency as Chile ravaged by 'worst wildfires in its history'

“The Il-76 aircraft arrived in Santiago on January 30, after a transcontinental flight from Moscow 
[9,300 miles], and almost immediately departed to battle the blazes,” the Russian Emergencies Ministry told RIA Novosti.

The plane was filled with water shortly after arrival and promptly departed to tackle the fires, RT’s Roman Kosarev reported.

The first target for the Russian firefighters is a wooded area around the town of Portezuelo. The wildfires raging around the town endanger several thousands of people and the situation is critical.

“The Il-76 aircraft is on a mission in the area around the town, the primary objective is to protect it from the blaze and contain the fires,” the ministry said.

Wildfires are quite a regular occurrence in Chile’s hot summer, but was particularly severe this year due to extremely high temperatures and a prolonged drought.

[1:09 minute video from Ruptly of firefighting efforts]

The first target for the Russian firefighters is a wooded area around the town of Portezuelo. The wildfires raging around the town endanger several thousands of people and the situation is critical.

“The Il-76 aircraft is on a mission in the area around the town, the primary objective is to protect it from the blaze and contain the fires,” the ministry said.

Wildfires are quite a regular occurrence in Chile’s hot summer, but was particularly severe this year due to extremely high temperatures and a prolonged drought.

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