An extremely dry spring has left much of Chile ripe for a difficult fire season. At least 18 fires burned across central Chile in the first week of January, 2014, resulting in the charring of about 16,200 hectares (40,000 acres) and damage estimates of $100,000 or more, according to quotes from government sources.
Smoke was so intense that on January 8 President Sebastián Piñera announced a health alert for four regions: Valparaíso, Metropolitan, Maule, and La Araucanía. He cited over 70 forest fires recently, with some extinguished, others controlled and some in full development as the cause of the health alert. The alert allows the government to take extra measures to protect the health of citizens, including ordering masks, hiring medical staff, and also to work to prevent the spread of rodent-borne disease, which is raised because of rodents fleeing the burning areas.
NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over the region on January 4, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer onboard to capture this true-color image of the blazes. Red hotspots, where the thermal sensors on the MODIS instrument detected high temperatures, mark fires. Heavy smoke shrouds the Santiago region and a broad gray band blows west then northwest over the Pacific Ocean and curls into the clouds offshore.