Chilean Firefighter, Former Forestry Official Arrested for Deadly Wildfire

May 26, 2024
The two started the fire in February "when the meteorological conditions were precisely adequate" to gain more work, officials said.

In Chile, a volunteer firefighter and a former forestry official have been arrested for starting a deadly fire earlier this year.

One of the suspects reportedly told investigators they started the February fire -- that led to 137 deaths -- for financial reasons, CNN reported.

Firefighter Francisco Mondaca, 22, is accused of igniting the fire. Flares and fireworks were found in his vehicle.

Franco Pinto, a former employee of the National Forest Corporation, is accused to planning the fire, 

It was one of the largest disasters recorded in the country in the last 30 years, according to the Research Center for Integrated Disaster Risk Management in Chile.

Investigators determined the two men agreed “in advance to carry out this type of conduct when the meteorological conditions were precisely adequate to ensure that a fire of this proportion would occur,” Regional Prosecutor Claudia Perivancich said on Saturday.

The fires would give both men more work, one of the suspects reportedly told authorities. 

Valparaiso Fire Commander Vicente Maggiolo, said, “We are very dismayed by the situation.”

Maggiolo called it an isolated incident and said it should not tarnish the work of the department, according to the AP.

“We have been saving lives for more than 170 years."

Christian Little, executive director of the forestry department, described the detention of a former official as “a pain” for the agency.

Both were ordered detained while invesigators continue the probe. Authorities said additional arrests may be forthcoming. 

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