Chile's Worst-Ever Wildfires Wipe Out Entire Town
Firefighter, police officers among 10 killed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 27, 2017 12:27 AM CST
A man stands on a hill surrounded by remains of homes destroyed by fire in Santa Olga, Chile.   (Javier Torres)
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(Newser) – Flames from one of Chile's worst wildfires completely consumed the town of Santa Olga as the death toll from the blazes since November rose to 10, officials say. The flames engulfed the post office, a kindergarten, and about 1,000 homes in the town, located 220 miles south of the Chilean capital, the AP reports. The body of one person was found under the charred remains of the town, which another 6,000 residents fled unharmed. "This is an extremely serious situation—of horror, a nightmare without an end," says Carlos Valenzuela, the mayor of the neighboring coastal city of Constitucion. "Everything burned."

Dozens of teary-eyed firefighters took a moment from battling the blazes to pay homage to one of their colleagues who died in the flames late Wednesday while he evacuated a family to safety. Two police officers also died Wednesday. The fires have been raging in central and southern Chile, fanned by strong winds, hot temperatures, and a prolonged drought. About 385,000 acres of forest have been destroyed. President Michelle Bachelet has declared a state of emergency, deployed troops, and asked for international help, calling it "the greatest forest disaster" in Chile's history. A Boeing 747-400 "Supertanker" arrived in Chile from the United States Wednesday to help fight the blazes. Russia has also sent a plane.

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