New Central Brigade: Elite wildfire fighting team arrives in central Chile to take care of the forests from fire

Parquemet is one of the most important green lungs of the Metropolitan Region. With 737 hectares of flora and fauna, this essential space is increasingly visited by Santiago residents to participate in sports and open-air activities due to its natural wealth. However, each year sees the risk and threat of wildfires affecting the abundant vegetation and species of the area. 

Similar to Parquemet, Santiago has more than 20 urban parks and a number of tall hills rich in vegetation and sclerophyll forests. Because of extended droughts and the high temperatures forecast for this summer, these areas are at a greater imminent risk of extinction, which is even higher in the event of rural forest fires.

This is why the CMPC company has transferred its new Central Brigade from the south of Chile. The team of eight firefighters have a great deal of experience. Their main mission will be to support the protection of the hillside forests and parks in the region. The Central Brigade will also be available to assist the National Forest Corporation (CONAF in Spanish) to help fight and control fires. Together with the community it will also work on education and awareness raising with regard to the importance of preservation and behaving responsibly with the environment.

An event was held this Saturday, November 28th, in the Metropolitan Park of Santiago (Parquemet) in which CMPC made its Central Brigade available to the region via an agreement with CONAF and another one signed with Parquemet.

Parquemet Director, Martín Andrade, the Manager of CONAF’s Protection Against Forest Fires, Aída Baldini, CMPC President, Luis Felipe Gazitua, and the Executive Director of the Reforestemos Foundation, Suzanne Wylie, were all in attendance.   

The President of CMPC, Luis Felipe Gazitúa, said that “what brings us to Santiago is not only the risk of wildfires, but the enormous concern for the future of sclerophyllous forests. We are encouraged by caring for this common heritage. The “Common House”, as Pope Francis baptized it. This world is the only one we have and it is up to us to take care of it”.

CMPC committed itself to Parquemet to hold a range of activities along with the community during the summer season to provide education regarding wildfire prevention. This includes what to do in the event one does occur, how to behave responsibly with the environment, and teaching about local flora at risk in the event of a fire.

“We aim to increase the number of prevention activities held during peak fire season through this agreement. We all have to do our part to ensure that the flora and fauna do not experience any devastating consequences from wildfires”,  added the Santiago Metropolitan Park Director, Martín Andrade.

The CONAF agreement specifies which sectors the Central Brigade may operate in to help control fires as well as coordination methods to follow between the two entities.

The Manager of CONAF’s Protection Against Forest Fires, Aída Baldini, stated that, “as government, we thank CMPC for this valuable support in preventing and fighting wildfires in the Metropolitan Region, especially during a season projected to be more complex due to high temperature predictions and a prolonged drought that has lasted more than a decade. Accordingly, coordination and collaboration on several occasions concerning wildfires will be an essential support to protect the population and preserve our natural resources. We must all work together for the wildfire prevention. Every individual can make a contribution by taking preventive measure in areas with vegetation such as removing dry grass and trash, not having bonfires and never using electric tools unless first dampening the work space beforehand. These are all simple, yet very effective measures”.

The Executive Director of the Reforestemos  Foundation – an entity that works together with CMPC regarding fire prevention and forest conservation – Suzanne Wylie stated that, the struggle against climate change is a core task for every member of society at both local and global levels. We need to work with regulators, citizens and also companies, who need to understand that the way they interact with the environment and local communitites needs to be sustainable. Furthermore, at the start of the forest fire season we have to spread awareness about prevention and get ready with all of the tools we have to ensure our forests do not get destroyed. This specialized brigade will be a huge support to this crusade that the whole nation should be involved in”.

About the Central Brigade

There are eight CMPC Central Brigade team members with vast experience in fighting wildfires. Some of its members were on duty during the “mega fires” of 2017 and others fought last year’s fires at Radal Siete Tazas.

They will have a fire truck with two thousand liters of water and all of the implements that are used by forest brigades in the southern area for preventing and fighting fires in transition zones between forests and residential areas, but this time in the metropolitan area.

Their base of operations during the 2020-2021 season will be the CMPC Estadio Papelero in the Puente Alto commune. This is where they will conduct training exercises and answer calls from CONAF. 

Central Brigade Supervisor, Alfonso Quevedo, underscored the fact that, “caring for our forests is everyone’s job. The number of firefighters working on fire prevention and fighting is not as important as having every resident help prevent fires in the first place.”