Char replaces the beauty of Valparaiso's hillside. (Pablo Rojas Madariaga/Sipa USA)

Valparaiso Still Ablaze

Wildfire spread from a forested ravine into the city

Matthew Zampa

Chileans abandoned their vehicles and ran from a wildfire that engulfed 2,000 homes in the Pacific coastal city of Valparaiso late Saturday.

“This won’t be extinguished, not today nor tomorrow,” Chile’s national emergency office tweeted Sunday afternoon after issuing a red alert for the 42 densely populated hills surrounding Valparaiso, Al Jazeera reported. High winds whipped flames over the hills late Sunday night and prevented some 1,200 firefighters, supported by 17 aircraft, from establishing firebreaks.

The city and surrounding hills—now declared a catastrophe zone by President Michelle Bachelet—house 250,000 Chileans in Technicolored homes (Valparaiso’s vibrancy put it on UNESCO’s World Heritage map). So far, 10,000 of those residents have been evacuated, according to CNN. Twelve people have died.

Entire communities lack municipal water lines and fire hydrants, according to NPR, and the grade on some of the hills is too steep for water trucks to climb. “We have been the builders and architects of our own danger,” said Castro.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: Pablo Rojas Madariaga/Sipa USA