By Nicolas Sepulveda in Chile
Jose Salinas, a 49-year-old farmer, was enjoying the first day of 2012 with his wife and children bathing in a lake in the Quillon commune, when he heard emergency sirens and saw smoke rising in the distance. The air around the family began to darken.
Jose rushed home to rescue his parents. The main road was blocked, so he had to use a less direct route. “They are elderly people, and they barely made it out before the house was completely in flames. They did not even think about saving any belongings,” Jose said. “My mother cried for her dogs and her belongings.”
Although he was able to rescue his parents and bring them to safety, tha family’s pets and animals were unable to escape. All of the property they owned, its surroundings and their farmland was consumed by flames. “The heat was so intense that, even when I was on the street, far away from the fire, I felt like I was burning,” Jose said. “When I got back there was nothing left but I did not hear Fox’s cries, my mother’s favourite dog. He was hiding in a ditch and very much alive. We had three dogs but only he survived.”
Jose Salinas and his parents returned to start from nothing. Today they are living in tents and need help to regain their livelihoods.
The Chilean Red Cross is currently assisting more that 50 families like Jose Salinas’ in shelters located in the communes of Quillon and Chillan.