January 27, 2021

The sclerophyll forests in the Metropolitan Region of Chile are experiencing a risk to their existence. The extended drought and high temperatures of the season encourage the spreading of any potential fires. This explains why the Central Brigade has been working intensely for the past two months to protect the forest from threats, together with the community.

“The best fire-fighting strategy is to prevent them from happening in the first place,” said Eduardo Hernández CMPC Forest and Timber Manager. This year just as every year, the company has made its teams available to conduct wildfire prevention activities and campaigns together with the community.

The situation of the forests in the Metropolitan Region of Chile has grown direr because of the prolonged drought affecting the zone and temperatures have exceeded prior summer seasons. This is why CMPC decided to provide a group of firefighters called the Central Brigade with vast fire-fighting and prevention experience to the central area of the country.

At the end of last November, the group of experts arrived to get set up in the municipality of Pirque in order to protect the sclerophyll forest from fire both through combat – in coordination with the National Forest Corporation (CONAF) – as well as prevention efforts (including building firebreaks, pruning and thinning foliage) and educational talks. 

 

Prevention is everyone’s job

The firefighters held activities together with the community throughout December and January. One was an educational talk with two athletes from the Sports Club of the Universidad Católica on the hills of San Carlos de Apoquindo in Las Condes in conjunction with the Fundación Reforestemos. The youths learned about the forests in the area, how to care for them, and what to do in case of a fire. They also built preventive firebreaks in order to learn more about the firefighters’ work.

Additionally, the brigade figured out which areas of the interface zones are the risky ones near the Hacienda El Peñón in the municipality of Puente Alto along with the neighbors of the community. The team taught them how to prevent fires during which time they also built preventive firebreaks, which will be fully built in the next few days. 

The Central Brigade then went to the Parque Yerba Loca nature preserve in the municipality of Lo Barnechea to talk to visitors who were camping and trekking in the park. The community learned how to prevent fire and what to do in case one were to happen. 

During the activity, Alfonso Quevedo the Central Brigade Supervisor said, “it matters not if there are one, two or one hundred thousand firefighters if people don’t do their part.  Wildfire prevention is everyone’s job, so it is important that everyone knows how to prevent such catastrophes”.

Lastly, along with the Neighborhood Committees in Lo Arcaya, Macul and San Vicente of Pirque, the experts held two educational workshops during which they addressed the neighbors’ concerns, gave advice, and taught them how to trim the trees on their properties in order to stop fire from quickly spreading to the treetops.

The brigade has set up several preventive firebreaks in various parks and hills in the Metropolitan Region such as San Carlos de Apoquindo in Las Condes and the Cerro del Medio, Parque Yerba Loca and the Plazoleta Negra on the road to Farellones, all in Lo Barnechea. In upcoming weeks, more will be built in the communities of Renca, Pirque and Puente Alto.

 

At CONAF’s service

While prevention is one of the Central Brigade’s main missions, firefighting is its central aim. The firefighters with their firetruck capable of discharging 2,000 liters of water have been working these past two months with CONAF (responsible for calling them in to service) on putting out fires in San Vicente de Pirque, Casas Viejas in Puente Alto, and another in La Pintana. 

The brigade’s mission is to fight fires in the Metropolitan Region, but it is also available to CONAF if they need help in other parts of the central region, as was the case of the fire at Lago Peñuelas in Quilpué in the Region of Valparaíso.

The firefighters spent five days fighting the fire to help control the flames affecting the forest of this national reserve alongside the CMPC tank brigade that traveled from San Javier in the Region of Maule.