CONICYT: Chile & California: The Impact of Wildland Fires


Researchers with support from Chile's CONICYT study the very similar vulnerabilities to wildland fires in that country and California.

It is often said that the country of Chile is “at the end of the world.” In early 2017, parts of Chile indeed felt they were experiencing the end of the world as wildfires devastated hundreds of thousands of acres. These fires, the worst in Chilean history, destroyed 8 percent of the country’s total forest area – more than a million acres – that may take 30 years to recover. Classified as a sixth-generation wildfire, the conflagration had the potential to impact the atmosphere at a continental level. Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman wrote that “countless acres have been burned to cinders, killing people and livestock, leveling a whole town, destroying centenarian trees as well as newer woodlands meant for export.” The damage went far beyond the raging flames. The Santiago air, “befouled with smoke and ash, became unbreathable for weeks.” This catastrophe gave an immediate relevance to a pilot research project involving UC Berkeley faculty, students, and researchers, and their Chilean counterparts. They were among eight collaborative research groups that received UC Berkeley–Chile Seed Grants in 2014. The grant competition, organized by the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at Berkeley, was funded by Chile’s National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT). These researchers, as well as many of the other groups benefitting from the UC Berkeley–Chile Seed Grants, point to the establishment of a continuing long-term effort of collaboration between Chile and California.

— Harley Shaiken

María del Carmen Thomsen
Pedro Reszka
Andrés Fuentes
Carlos Fernandez-Pello
Publication date: 
January 10, 2017
Publication type: 
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies Article