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Chile Forest Fire Rips Through Homes In Viña Del Mar (VIDEO)

First Posted: 02/27/2012 4:32 pm Updated: 02/27/2012 4:32 pm

A forest fire near the Beagle Channel in the commune of Viña del Mar, Chile, has engulfed more than 50 hectares of land -- about 120 acres -- and taken at least 73 homes with it, according to the Peruvian network Radio Programas del Peru. The National Office of Emergencies of the Interior Ministry (ONEMI) has declared a red alert for the region of Valparaiso, La Nación reports.

"I've been a firefighter for 27 years and I've been in many large and difficult fires," Viña del Mar fire chief Ricardo Barckhahn told La Segunda, according to a HuffPost translation. "I'd say this is the worst I've ever been through."

La Nación reports that 20 people have already reported injuries, including 11 with burns and six affected by smoke inhalation. The fire still hasn't been fully controlled, according to BBC Mundo, and officials plan to set up emergency housing for the more than 300 victims of the fire.

According to La Tercera, local authorities believe the fire may have been started intentionally. Radio Santiago reports that a public worker spotted three suspicious people in the area where the fire allegedly started on Saturday.

This is Chile's second major forest fire of the year, with a January blaze taking the lives of six firefighters.

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Filed by Ryan Craggs  |