Jan. 6 - At least six firefighters died while fighting a forest fire in southern Chile. Marie-Claire Fennessy reports.
EDITORS PLEASE NOTE EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL At least six firefighters died battling a forest fire in southern Chile. A further four people were treated for burns. Survivor accounts said several hotspots formed a circle of flames around the firefighters. Authorities believe the men died after this created a heat tunnel, a phenomenon that can create temperatures up to 2000 degrees celsius. On firefighter, Hector Herrera managed to escape and recounted the harrowing ordeal. (SOUNDBITE) HECTOR HERRERA, FIREFIGHTER WHO SURVIVED DEADLY INCIDENT, SAYING(Spanish): "What I don't know is what happened to the people who were working directly with me. I was able to get out through the area where there wasn't a fire but in the higher part, there were other people and when the smoke covered us-- it covered all of us, in reality, some of them threw themselves on the ground as if to let it pass but it choked us. It choked me; it choked all of us. What I did was run into the fire, that's all. I did get burnt in parts but I saved myself. My feet got burnt, that's all, and then I ran toward the stream where there was water." The incident began on Wednesday morning, when around 50 small fires are thought to have been deliberately set. The country's president had harsh words for those responsible. (SOUNDBITE) CHILEAN PRESIDENT SEBASTIAN PINERA SAYING(Spanish): "We have decided to press criminal charges, invoking the anti-terrorist law. Because this was definitely arson and criminal conduct that caused these fires to start simultaneously." So far authorities do not have any leads on suspects. Several forest fires in Chile's south have burned thousands of acres of land and over 100 homes. Marie-Claire Fennessy, Reuters