Forest fire destroys homes in hills above Chilean port city


SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Fire driven by strong winds swept through forest land in the hills outside the Chilean port of Valparaiso on Monday, destroying dozens of homes and sending a pall of heavy smoke down onto the city.

Authorities said the blaze started Monday afternoon in the Laguna Verde area and spread to the Playa Ancha hill, where many wooden houses are located. About 200 people were ordered to evacuate as a precaution.

Fire brigades, soldiers and forest workers were in the hills combating the fire, which officials said was fueled by winds up to 25 miles per hour (30 kph), low humidity and high temperatures. The fight was complicated because the area is crisscrossed by many ravines and the roads are narrow.

Col. Mario Ramirez, the prefect of police for Valparaiso, said only one person with minor injuries had been reported in the first few hours of the fire.

In 2014, a forest fire destroyed 2,500 homes and killed 15 people in the hills that surround Valparaiso. The colonial-era city known for colorfully painted cliff-top houses was designated a U.N. World Heritage Site in 2003.

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