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Chile: arrest of two men suspected of causing a fire that killed 137 people in February

A firefighter and a forestry official were arrested. arrested on Friday in Chile, suspected of being behind bars. the origin of the fire which left 137 dead at the beginning of February in the tourist town of Viña del Mar and which had upset many people. the country.

“An arrest warrant was issued today against the author of the fires that occurred in February in the Valparaiso region”, where the city of Viña del Mar is located, declared the director of police Eduardo Cerna, in a press conference organized at the end of the investigation.

A little later, the Valparaiso regional prosecutor's office confirmed the arrest a second person: an official from the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf), the organization responsible for fighting forest fires and managing national parks.

The two men must be placed in pre-trial detention on Saturday for arson leading to death.

According to the prosecution, the fire started on February 2 from small Simultaneous fires broke out near Lake Peñuelas, located near the tourist towns of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso in central Chile.

– Reconstructed facts –

The flames spread quickly due to the heat and gusty winds. In total, 137 people died and 16,000 were affected.

Chile: arrest of two men suspected of causing a fire that killed 137 people in February

Aerial view of burned houses after a fire in the Las Pataguas sector, Viña Del Mar, Chile, February 8, 2024 © AFP – Javier TORRES

According to local media, this 22-year-old man joined the fire brigade, which is made up of volunteers in Chile, a year and a half ago.

“We are completely devastated by what happened, this is a completely isolated incident (…) we have been caring for Valparaiso for over 170 years and we cannot allow such things,” Vicente Maggiolo, commander of the 13th fire company of the city of Valparaiso, told the press.

According to Ivan Navarro , Bridage commissioner responsible for investigating crimes committed against the environment (Bidena), investigators were able to reconstruct exactly what the arrested firefighter did before, during and after the fire.

“We were able to determine the exact locations where the fires broke out and find the device that caused the fires,” he added.

We were also able to determine the participation of a second subject, accused of being the mastermind of the affair.

“He provided him with the knowledge needed to create these devices and also told him the exact times he should operate so that the fire would do more damage”, added Mr. Navarro.

– Evidence from the suspect –

From the start, local authorities claimed it was arson.

“All the inhabitants of Viña del Mar knew that it was a voluntary act (…) and today we can have this degree of certainty,” declared the mayor of this city, Macarena Ripamonti.

Firefighters were unable to put out the fire due to the lack of roads or because they found themselves stuck in the narrow accesses to the city.

“There were about four outbreaks, equidistant from each other,” said Osvaldo Ossandón, a prosecutor specializing in fires.

Items with which he started the fire were found in the house of the arrested suspect and an investigation is underway to determine if he was involved in other previous fires, added the prosecutor.

This arrest constitutes “an act of justice (…) for those who lost their lives in the fire, for their families, for those who lost all their property, their work and who are still fighting today,” declared Interior Minister Carolina Toha.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116