CRS in Chile
While the presence of fire on the landscape is inescapable and often desirable from an ecological standpoint, uncontrolled wildfires cause considerable negative environmental, social, and economic costs. These costs have risen substantially in recent years along with the incidence and severity of wildfires That has increased their impact on urban centers, such as Valparaíso where, in 2014, a wildfire killed 15 people and burned 2,500 homes. Costs incurred every year from fire suppression, property damage, restoring burned areas, lost tax and business revenues now regularly reach $150 million in Chile, not to mention the incalculable cost of human lives.
As more people live in and around forests and other natural areas – places referred to as the wildland-urban interface – and climate change makes wildlands more susceptible to fire, the incidence and severity of wildfires in Chile are expected to continue increasing. For this reason the National Forest Corporation (CONAF), the entity responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires in Chile, is giving greater priority to wildfire prevention. CONAF has joined with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and CRS’ long-time partner Caritas Chile to implement a project in Chile’s wildfire-prone Araucanía, Maule, and Metropolitan regions to enable vulnerable communities in the wildland-urban interface to improve their capacity to prevent and respond to wildfires.
The Community-Based Wildfire Prevention in Chile’s Wildland-Urban Interface project focuses on developing an effective community-based model for preventing wildfires and improving the capacity of government and civil society organizations to support the implementation and distribution of this model. Our work also promotes the development of local, long-term mechanisms to enable communities to adapt to living with wildfire hazards rather than short-term suppression and response. Creating wildfire-adapted communities is a proactive and inclusive process that builds community-wide capacity to reduce risks and respond effectively in the event of an emergency.
CRS' History in Chile
After an 8.8 magnitude-earthquake struck Chile on February 27, 2010, Catholic Relief Services responded by contributing more than $1.4 million to support the people of Chile and Caritas Chile’s emergency relief efforts. With over 2 million people affected, this was the largest natural disaster in Chile since 1960.
Through a network of 250 parishes and nearly 1,500 churches, Caritas Chile was able to distribute critical food and equipment to the earthquake’s victims. Aid packages included food, clothing, tarps for shelter, and hygiene kits.
In addition to helping repair damaged infrastructure and building transitional shelters, CRS is committed to helping communities prepare for future natural disasters. CRS aided in the construction of community centers with emergency response supplies to help Chileans better respond to future emergencies. In 2011, CRS implemented programs of economic resilience and recovery focused on livelihoods and social development.