Chile accuses volunteer firefighter and ex-forestry official with causing huge fire that killed 137

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A resident flees an encroaching forest fire in Vina del Mar, Chile on Feb. 3, 2024. Police arrested a suspect on May 24 for allegedly causing the forest fire that left 137 dead and injured some 16,000 people in the Valparaíso region. (AP)

SANTIAGO, Chile, May 26, (AP): A Chilean judge on Saturday ordered a volunteer firefighter and a former forestry official detained for allegedly planning and causing a mammoth forest fire in the Valparaiso region that caused 137 deaths and made 16,000 people homeless in February.
The court in Valparaiso ruled the two men, who were arrested Friday, could be held for 180 days while they are investigated.
The chief prosecutor in the case, Osvaldo Ossandón, told journalists that the main suspect is Francisco Mondaca, a 22-year-old volunteer firefighter in Valparaiso who is accused of physically starting the fire. He said flares and fireworks were found in Mondaca’s vehicle.
The other suspect was identified as Franco Pinto, a former employee of the National Forest Corporation. He is accused of planning the crime.
The regional prosecutor for Valparaiso, Claudia Perivancich, said investigators have evidence the two men agreed “in advance to carry out conduct of this type when the weather conditions were adequate.”
Prosecutors said that according to Mondaca’s testimony, there was an economic motive behind the plot – providing more work in fighting fires. They said they had not ruled out the possibility of more people being involved.
The commander of the Valparaiso Fire Department, 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 fire department. “We have been saving lives for more than 170 years,” he told TVN.

This news has been read 498 times!

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