SANTIAGO, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Up to 1,587 forest fires have razed more than 13,000 hectares of land in Chile this spring-summer season, Agriculture Minister Esteban Valenzuela said Monday.
While the fires were 9 percent fewer than those of the last season, they were more dangerous, leading to "40 percent more damaged hectares," the minister told a press conference.
To combat forest fires, the government has invested 82 billion pesos (about 94.5 million U.S. dollars) to establish 243 forestry brigades across the country, he said.
Climate change has worsened forest fires in Chile, just as it has in Spain, France and the United States, especially the west coast state of California, he added.
Currently, authorities are combating 11 forest fires around the country, eight of which have received a red alert from the National Emergency Office because they are spreading rapidly and threatening nearby homes and communities, said Valenzuela.
Aircraft equipped with thermal cameras that can detect the location of hot spots are helping monitor blazes and dispatch brigade members, said Pablo Lobos, the head of Forest Fire Protection at the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf).
This year, the government beefed up Conaf's firefighting budget by 30 percent.
According to data from Conaf, 35 percent of forest fires were caused intentionally, and some 52 percent by negligence or accidents. ■