Chilean National Park Closes in Face of Raging Wildfire
Usually, this is the time of year tourists flock to Chile's Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, known for its stunning mountain and lake scenery and the birds of prey, guanacos and endangered Huemul deer that call it home. But on Friday, officials closed the park and evacuated some 400 visitors as they struggled to contain a raging wildfire that has already consumed 21,000 acres, roughly 4% of the park.
The topography of the landscape, strong winds and combustible vegetation have made the fire into what Vicente Nunez, the chief of Chile's national emergency service, called "an extreme situation," reported the BBC. Rain was expected overnight, which could potentially swing the odds in the favor of the firefighters.
As of Friday night, 300 Chilean firefighters, soldiers and forest rangers had been mobilized. President Sebastian Pinera promised to raise that number to 450 over the weekend, but he also noted that it could take weeks to fully control the blaze.
It's unclear whether the summer drought that has fueled this fire was influenced by rising global temperatures, but Patagonia hasn't escaped the ravages of climate change- one Chilean glacier receded half a mile in the past year.