Devastating fire in Valparaiso, Chile to spur major humanitarian needs

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According to the National Emergency Coordination Office (ONEMI) a massive fire broke out in La Polvora a community close to Valparaiso, Chile, this past 12, April, 2014. During the first hours the fire consumed 15 hectares of crops, however the fire continued to spread due to strong winds, reaching three of the forty hills that are part of the landscape in Valparaiso where thousands of people live in homes made of wood and metal. Initial reports issued by ONEMI indicate that at least 1,100 homes have been destroyed by the fire, 16 people have died and 4,000 people in five shelters opened by government authorities.

Nearly 800 hectares of land have been burned and potable water services and electrical services have been cut off in many of the neighbourhoods of the city. Valparaiso, a city of nearly 270,000 inhabitants in currently engulfed in smoke which is advancing towards the bay which hosts one of Chile’s most important seaports.

Firefighters in Valparaiso continue to battle in order to control the fire and prevent it from spreading, but their efforts continue to be hindered by strong winds. Furthermore, the large amount of smoke has made it difficult to use aerial resources to help control the fire. The Chilean Government has declared a state of emergency in Valparaiso, military forces have been sent to the affected areas to assist in evacuating the population.

“Chilean Red Cross have activated their emergency operations centre and have mobilized an evaluation team to Valparaiso and have opened donation centres to help collect, food, blankets and other essential items to support those who have lost everything,” said Felipe Del Cid disaster management delegate of the IFRC. ONEMI has also dispatched trucks with mattresses, blankets, water, masks for protection from smoke inhalation and food rations.

“This is one of the biggest fires in the history of the port city of Valparaiso. To further assist the government’s response, Chile Red Cross, is sharing recommendations to prevent smoke inhalation and information to receive donations on their social media channels,” added Del Cid. Chile Red Cross is currently preparing a plan of action to request disaster relief emergency funds from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to support the response.

In February of 2013, 1, 200 people were left homeless and 105 homes were destroyed in Valparaiso following a terrible fire caused by a 27 year old man who was later arrested by the police. (Source: