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Pre-trial detention ordered for suspects in Chile fire

A Chilean court ordered the pre-trial detention of two men accused of starting a massive fire earlier this year that left 137 people dead in the resort city of Vina del Mar.

Police had announced Friday the arrests of volunteer firefighter Ignacio Mondaca, 22, and forestry official Franco Pinto, who have been ordered held behind bars for six months.

“We have material that shows that they agreed to act jointly when the appropriate meteorological conditions arose to ensure that the fires occurred”

Authorities say the firefighter carried out the plot, while citing the CONAF official as the mastermind behind it.

Prosecutors said they had access to evidence the shows both men acted deliberately and that they had knowledge about the optimal weather conditions to start fires.

“We have material that shows that they agreed to act jointly when the appropriate meteorological conditions arose to ensure that the fires occurred,” Claudia Perivancich, regional prosecutor of Valparaiso, told reporters.

Officials found that in each of the four places where fires first broke out on 2 February, they also found devices made of cigarettes and matches that started them.

The fires were the worst natural disaster to strike the South American nation since the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 500 dead

The judge gave authorities six months to finish the investigation, saying that more work had to be done on the cases of missing victims and each suspect’s cell phone, according to a post on Valparaiso’s prosecutor office’s X account.

Prosecutor Osvaldo Ossandon said authorities were able to link the firefighter to six previous fires that occurred in the area, according to a post on X from Valparaiso’s prosecutor’s office.

The fires were the worst natural disaster to strike the South American nation since the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 500 dead.

Chile, Argentina and other parts of South America’s southern cone have faced a severe heat wave, something experts say will become more common during the southern summer months due to climate change.

The extreme weather in Chile has also been exacerbated by the El Niño climate phenomenon, which warms the Pacific Ocean.


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