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Chile wildfires: Members and neighbors affected; full-time missionaries safe

Forest fires on the coast of Chile kill at least 112 people; burn thousands of acres

Editor’s note: The South America South Area presidency released the following statement in Spanish on the Church’s Chile Newsroom on Feb. 9, which has been added below to the original Church News article published Feb. 5.

The South America South Area Presidency wishes to express its deep regret and solidarity in the face of the devastating tragedy of the forest fires that have affected central Chile, particularly in the areas of Quilpué and Viña del Mar.

In these moments of pain and loss, we express our love, empathy and prayers for those affected. The Church has been contributing with donations in favor of affected families. We are coordinating with the government and other institutions providing volunteers and material aid with the desire to bring assistance and hope to our brothers who have been so impacted by this catastrophe.

We sincerely appreciate the response of local leaders, members and missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have been supporting the victims.

We invite individuals, families and congregations to pray for protection for firefighters and provide strength to affected families by reflecting the love and compassion that Jesus Christ taught us.

Presidency of the South America South Area

Elder Craig C. Christensen
Elder Joaquin E. Costa
Elder Alan R. Walker

Wildfires burn in central Chile

Massive forest fires grew over the weekend in central and coastal Chile, killing at least 112 people and destroying thousands of homes.

News reports said the fires burned at least 43,000 hectares in Valparaíso and have the highest intensity around Viña del Mar — which has hilly regions, a popular beach resort and a famous botanical garden, all greatly affected by the flames.

Elder Ricardo A. Spencer, Area Seventy and communications director for the South America South Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told the Church News that many Church members are affected in Viña del Mar and Quilpué. The numbers are still being updated because there are places that still cannot be entered. 

The missionaries in the affected area are fine, he added.

Framed by a window in a burned out home, people clean up amid the rubble of homes burned by deadly forest fires in Viña del Mar, Chile.
People clean up amid the rubble of homes burned by deadly forest fires in Viña del Mar, Chile, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. | Esteban Felix, Associated Press

One news agency reported that Chile President Gabriel Boric believed the number of victims would increase, as there are several hundred people still reported missing.

“It is the biggest tragedy we have had since the 2010 earthquake,” Boric said, referring to the 8.8 magnitude quake followed by a tsunami on Feb. 27 of that year, killing hundreds of people.

Fires also burned in Viña del Mar around Christmas in 2022, prompting several weeks of relief efforts. These fires are estimated to be 20 times larger than those.

A firefighters runs through a front yard as a building goes up in flames, in Viña del Mar, Chile.
A firefighters runs through a front yard as a building goes up in flames, in Viña del Mar, Chile, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. Officials say intense forest fires burning around a densely populated area of central Chile have left many people dead and destroyed hundreds of homes. | Esteban Felix, Associated Press

Chile’s president announced two days of national mourning starting on Monday, Feb. 5.

On Sunday, Viña del Mar Chile Stake President Alan Campos Gallardo met with the National Office of Religious Affairs to discuss relief efforts and “delivering comfort, hope, restraint and support to the people damaged and affected by the fire,” reported the stake Instagram account.

Members of the El Belloto Chile Stake, Villa Alemana Chile Stake and Quilpué Chile Stake volunteered Sunday, Feb. 4, to deliver bottled water and supplies. Around 80 people wearing yellow Helping Hands gathered at a school in Quilpué to answer a call to help from the city. They invited others to join as their efforts would continue on Monday.

A post on the stake’s Instagram account thanked everyone who has been helping, saying “As disciples of Christ we are His hands to help His children in need.”

Related Story
Church responds as forest fires burn in Chile
A helicopter flies over a forest fire that has spread to Viña del Mar, Chile.
A helicopter flies over a forest fire that has spread to Viña del Mar, Chile, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. | Esteban Felix, Associated Press
Aerial view of people clean up what is left amid the burned rubble of a home in Viña del Mar, Chile.
People clean up what is left amid the rubble of homes burned by a deadly forest fire in Viña del Mar, Chile, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 | Esteban Felix, Associated Press
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