Hundreds of brutal wildfires in Chile are causing widespread damage to communities in the central and southern regions of the country.
At least 22 individuals are dead, 10 missing, hundreds injured, and thousands displaced during the widespread natural disaster, according to the Associated Press. Firefighting efforts are proving especially difficult as the wildfires cover an especially significant breadth of land.
The amount of land affected by the early February wildfires is equivalent to the acreage that typically burns in Chile over the course of an entire year. Over 100,000 hectares are affected, according to a Feb. 6 report by The Drinks Business.
The fires are accompanied by unusually hot temperatures and high wind, which only accelerate the fire’s spread. They’re also causing irreparable harm to decades-old vineyards, especially in the Itata and Biobío wine regions.
Most of the region’s winemakers skew small in production, with several reports of total vineyard loss. A los Viñateros Bravos, Leoncio Wines, and Rogue Vine report damage to their vineyards, while wider reports of loss are also attributed to Jorge Cotal and Viña Altos del Valle.
Nonprofit Wines of Chile is currently hosting an online fundraiser to help impacted winemakers. As of Feb. 17, the organization has raised just over $1,400.
“The brutal fire is destroying the ancient vines and putting the livelihoods of small, family-owned wineries at risk. 97 percent of Ñuble’s vineyards are in Itata, with many vineyards having 100-year-old vines. Help us protect this valuable cultural and historic treasure,” the GoFundMe description reads.
In 2017, over 575,000 hectares of Chilean land — including vineyards — burned in similar, devastating wildfires. At that time, it was regarded by Chile President Michelle Bachelet as “the greatest forest disaster in our history,” according to the New York Times.