Ministerio de Defensa de España


In January 2017, Chile suffered a wave of forest fires that affected many municipalities in four different regions. More than 150 forest fires occurred for two months, up to 58 simultaneous fires. This extraordinary situation led the Chilean authorities to request international collaboration, which was answered by countries such as the United States and Mexico.

The European Union answered through its Civil Protection Mechanism and sent teams from Spain, France and Portugal; Among them, a UME team formed by 50 soldiers of the 1st Emergencies Intervention Battalion (BIEM I) and 6 assessors of UME Headquarters, that arrived in Chile on 29 January.

The Spanish team was assigned to the Biobio region, one of the Chilean provinces most affected by the fire waves. There, UME made its services available to the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) of the Region, in charge of planning and implementation of the activities to be carried out in the area.

The first UME’s mission was in Nonguen, a strategic location of the area due to it is the sanctuary of a large native fauna and flora, but also, the water reserve of Penca’s Community. Hence the importance given by the Biobío authorities to fight the active forest fires in the region.

The main mission was to establish, with hand tools, all the defense lines needed, while the air discharges were reducing the intensity of the flames. This allowed to stop the advance of the fire before arriving at the Natural Reserve.

The following day, UME soldiers were assigned to the Pichaco-Hualqui forest fire with the main objective of protecting the houses that were between the wooded surface. There, in partnership with CONAF forest fight fighters and the use of manual tools like billhooks, pulaski and McLeod, the fire was suffocated.

In the afternoon, a tongue of fire threatened a group of houses that were very close to the wooded surface. To counteract the threat and protect the populated area, the firefighters of Antofagasta’s region joined in the activities and with a fire pumper truck and manual tools, it was possible to save the houses.

The joint effort of CONAF forest firefighters, aerial support and international teams allowed to reduce the number of forest fires, ending with that, the emergency phase in the region. Before their return to Spain, many travelers who were in the Santiago airport, expressed their gratitude for the work performed by the Spanish team.


 Operación "Chile 2017"

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