Happened to see a story tonight describing a huge forest fire raging over in Valparaiso, the ciudad herman (“sister city”) of Viña del Mar located just a few kilometers southwest down the Pacific coast. Sounds like they’ve evacuated 4,500 people already from both port cities and likely will be evacuating more soon. Click here to see some of the incredible, frightening images of the fire which contrast wildly with the serene scenes I was posting from my trip this week.
I was reminded how during the week I had heard a story related to the preponderance of stray dogs in Viña del Mar. Last year I was there during March and wrote here about all of the dogs about. Most are friendly and obviously cared for and fed, and some are even being vaccinated, I believe, although it is still a problem. I remember having read then something about how there were similar issues with strays in other Chilean cities (including Santiago), too.
This year there did seem to be even more dogs on the streets and the beach, and the story I heard that it was related to a huge fire in Valparaiso last April, subsequently called “The Great Fire of Valparaiso.” That one lasted five days, killed 15, and destroyed 2,500 buildings.
Dogs fled the city and many didn’t return (apparently), ending up adding to the already large population of strays in Viña del Mar. That was the explanation I heard this week, although I didn’t realize the fire was as recent as it was (and thus didn’t necessarily explain all of the dogs as many were there before).
Now people (and dogs, presumably) are fleeing their homes again as high winds carry the new blaze onward to threaten both cities. It’s an area somewhat prone to natural disasters, with earthquakes an ongoing threat. An earthquake forced the cancellation of the LAPT stop there once (back in Season 3), and I remember there was one in the area just after I left last year.
That said, while the high winds and dry conditions do make fires a danger (particularly this time of year), what I’m reading regarding both the investigation of last year’s blaze and the new one this week indicate both might’ve been started via human negligence.
In any event, I’m hopeful the fire will be contained soon and doesn’t grow to be as destructive the one from a year ago from which residents -- both two- and four-legged -- are still feeling the effects.