Chileans are rebuilding their homes in the same neighborhoods hit by fires

Brenda and Humberto returned to the hill devastated Fires from Viña del Mar, in chili. Emboldened, they decorate the entrance to their future home with plants, which they will rebuild in the same irregular, minimal-access settlement that made evacuation difficult on the day of the tragedy.

“We are a team (…) we will have a nicer house,” says 28-year-old Brenda Bustos, who is currently unemployed, excitedly.

Without a relocation plan, the couple returned to Mount Sinai, a neighborhood that was illegally established several years ago and was home to about 200 families before the Feb. 2 wildfires that killed 131 people.

That day, the fire ravaged part of the crowded hills of Viña del Mar, where families had settled on unauthorized land for decades. At Mount Sinai, the residents remember, they fled on their own.

Firefighters were unable to reach several areas of the fire – the deadliest this century Chili- due to a lack of roads or they were stuck with their machines in the narrow driveways, with rows of charred vehicles left on the banks.

The flames quickly spread to the wooden buildings. Many neighbors, including migrants, the poor and the working class, have no choice but to start over in the same place.

“For economic reasons, we have no other place to turn,” Guerra said.

According to a study by the specialist website Portal Inmobiliario, Viña del Mar is the sixth largest city in Latin America with the most expensive real estate at $2,699 per square meter.

According to the government, 38,079 houses were missing in the Valparaíso region even before the fire, the second highest number in the country. After the fire, another 15,000 houses were affected.

More wood.

Despite the threat of new fires, Humberto Guerra, a 28-year-old baker, is back on Mount Sinai.

He brought with him two plants to place at the entrance to his property so that they would bring “joy and life” to the place that had been reduced to rubble. He scribbles the plans for his future house in a notebook and writes down the list of materials.

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“Here I will make a piece of three square meters, I will use six logs (logs), 13 sticks for the floor and five wooden panels,” says Bustos, who managed to escape on foot along with his partner. and then by car. , from the burning hill.

Residents are aware of the danger and want to take new safety measures.

“The president (of the settlement) gave us the idea of ​​making the area a little smaller, but widening the road so that the firefighters have freer access,” says the man.

Brenda’s eight-year-old daughter was outside. She cried a lot when she found out “that her little house had burned down,” says the woman.

They lost everything, but thanks to donations and help from family members, they got a tent and blankets. Since Sunday they have been camping where their home was.

“We will proceed slowly but surely,” says the baker happily.

Together with other residents of Mount Sinaí, he leads night watches out of fear that the fires could be deliberately rekindled.

According to them, they were chasing two masked men who were trying to set some bushes on fire with flashlights and iron. The residents believe they are trying to force them off their land.

“Those who are burning know the hill very well, they know the leaks very well because we couldn’t catch them,” Guerra added. “What else are they going to burn us for? “You’ve already burned everything,” her companion asks, irritated.

As they continue rebuilding their home, they distract Brenda’s daughter by telling her stories under the tent by flashlight light.


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