From: Reuters
Published February 22, 2005 12:00 AM

Forest Fire Rages in Chile's Torres del Paine Park

SANTIAGO, Chile — Hundreds of firefighters battled a major blaze Monday in Chile's Torres del Paine National Park that forced wildlife to flee and obscured views of the famous Horns of Paine peaks at the height of the tourist season.


The fire, which was started when a Czech camper's stove turned over, has burned more than 14,000 acres in four days, the government's National Forestry Corporation spokesman Claudio Perez said.


An unusually hot summer in remote southern Chile, steep terrain, and strong winds typical of the season have complicated firefighting efforts, Perez said.


"It's really hard to say when we could have it contained," he said.


A few dozen tourists have been evacuated from campgrounds due to heavy smoke, and campgrounds have been shut down near popular lakes on the eastern side of the park, according to a report in La Segunda newspaper.


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Chile, a South American nation with the soaring Andes mountain range and miles of dramatic coastline, draws thousands from around the world to its national parks. Torres del Paine's glaciers and dramatic granite spires are a big draw for hikers.


Foxes, pumas, guanacos (a smaller relation of the llama) and nandues (a flightless bird related to the ostrich) are fleeing the flames from the fire, the worst in two decades.


The tourist whose camp stove accidentally started the fire paid the maximum fine of $200 and was allowed to leave the country.


Torres del Paine lies 1,500 miles south of the capital on the border with Argentina and its total area is 450,000 acres.


Source: Reuters


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