Cerro del Medio (a well-known hill) sits right in the center of the Lo Barnechea neighborhood of the Metropolitan Region, which is why it got its name (in Spanish). This island hill is 1,011 meters above sea level. Its main entrance is at the intersection of the El Golf de Manquehue and Camino Las Hualtatas streets. It boasts an attractive view of the neighborhood’s valley.
It is also characterized by a low-level of climbing difficulty, so it is ideal for beginners and appropriate for nearly everyone who wants to start practicing hiking. It is also a great option for family outings.
However, the Cerro del Medio sclerophyll forest, like many others, is in danger. The significant increase in the number of visitors, especially as a result of the pandemic as more people are looking to outdoor activities, leads to a heightened risk of fire. Two other factors affecting this possibility include a mega-drought ongoing in the central region of Chile for over a decade now coupled with high temperature predictions for this summer.
In Chile, 99.7% of wildfires are caused by human activity be it negligence or willful. This is why the CMPC Company together with the Reforestemos Foundation have put its new Central Brigade at the disposal of the Metropolitan Region for the 2020-2021 wildfire season. It is comprised of eight fire fighting and prevention experts whose mission will be not only to fight fires alongside CONAF [National Forest Corporation], but also to educate the citizenry about how to prevent fires with a range of tips and activities.
Three days prior to the start of summer on December 18th, the Central Brigade set up firebreaks in the Cerro del Medio forests in order to create areas of terrain without any dead or dry vegetation. The aim is stop the spread of potential fires and thus protect the people, flora, and fauna that are often affected by fires.
Mayor of Lo Barnechea Cristóbal Lira thanked the firefighters and CMPC for carrying out the initiative in the neighborhood. He stated that, “95% of our territory is mountainous terrain, and it is our duty to preserve and protect it. Two years ago this same hill caught fire in the middle of the summer. Whenever the warm summer period begins we always launch a powerful fire prevention campaign with specific measures for preventing fires resulting from burning trash, lit cigarettes, cookouts or campfires on the hills. A few months ago we created official pathways on this hill to prevent any erosion. Caring for our mountainous landscape is one of our priorities, which is why we are very happy to be continuing with this alliance. It will be a huge benefit and aid in caring for our environment.”
Guillermo Turner, Corporate Affairs Manager of CMPC, said that, “the forests in this area are sclerophyll in nature. They are quite special and their propagation and maintenance is very complex. They have to be carefully protected. Together with the brigade we are going to work on education and prevention for preservation. I want to thank the community of Lo Barnechea and Mayor Cristóbal Lira for letting us come here and support this effort.”
Executive Director Suzanne Wylie of the Reforestemos Foundation stated that, “native forests sustain 80% of earth’s biodiversity and because of climate change there is an evident increase in forest fire risk that may endanger it, which is why prevention is key. As a foundation we are certain that education is one of the keys to preventing catastrophes. We know we can’t continue our work of reforestation if we don’t first work on caring for the resources we already have.”
Regarding the completed work, Central Brigade Chief Alfonso Quevedo stated that, “today we created a kilometer of firebreak that we’ll continue to expand in coming days. It will definitely help stop the progress of any fire that may happen, but our prevention efforts or that of another 1,000 firefighters won’t be enough if people throughout the country don’t help us. Every individual must be aware that whenever they are in forests either on hills, in parks or national reserves, they must never light any fires. The best firefighting is one that doesn’t have to happen, but for that we need the commitment of everyone.”
The activity will be repeated throughout the season on various hills and parks in Lo Barnechea in order to help protect the forests and the people in the central region because of the danger they are in. Additional similar activities have been held in other hilly areas in the region.