Below is an abbreviated version of what I received from the US State Department via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) on January 10:
The State Department alerts U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Chile of ongoing forest fires in several regions across the country. The regions of most concern include the 12th Region Magallanes, location of the Torres del Paine National Park, the 7th Region Maule, and the 8th Region Bio Bio. January is the peak of the austral summer tourist season, and parts of the affected areas are known for outdoor sports and adventure tourism. January is also the summer dry season in Chile, with conditions that increase the risk of fire throughout the country. This Travel Alert updates the alert issued on December 30, 2011, and expires on January 31, 2012.
Chilean authorities have been battling serious forest fires in the Torres del Paine National Park since late December 2011. The Park was closed completely on December 30, 2011 due to the danger presented by the fires. The Chilean government reopened portions of the park on January 4, 2012, including some hotels and camping sites. More recently, fires have broken out in other regions. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling to the Park or any other affected region and to follow the instructions of local officials.
Now reference the three regions on this map.
- 12th Region Magallanes, location of the Torres del Paine National Park
- 7th Region Maule
- 8th Region Bio Bio
Unfortunately my friends A and C have Torres del Paine as part of their Southern Chile itinerary. They may be rerouted due to these fires. It’s unfortunate that they may miss it because the boyfriend and I saw some of that unspoiled land on the Argentine side when we were in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego last year. It’s unbelievably gorgeous.
As for where this adventure will take me in Chile, I plan to be in and around Santiago and then travel North. Before you start to worry that I’m in the same country as these fires, just remember that Chile is as long as the US is as wide.