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2 arrested in Chile for February wildfires that killed 137

By Mike Heuer
Alleged arsonists are blamed for Chile's deadliest fire that killed 137 in the Valparaiso region on Feb. 3. Photo by Adriana Thomasa/EPA-EFE
Alleged arsonists are blamed for Chile's deadliest fire that killed 137 in the Valparaiso region on Feb. 3. Photo by Adriana Thomasa/EPA-EFE

May 25 (UPI) -- A firefighter and a former forestry worker were arrested Friday for allegedly setting multiple fires that converged and killed 137 in Valparaiso, Chile, on Feb. 3.

The two unnamed suspects allegedly set several fires that burned at the same time, with wind and hot temperatures fanning the flames and causing them to spread rapidly.

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The fire also affected more than 16,000 and was Chile's deadliest fire and second-deadliest natural disaster after an earthquake in February 2010 that measured an 8.8 magnitude, caused a tsunami and killing about 800 people.

"There were approximately four outbreaks equidistant from each other," Prosecutor Osvaldo Ossandon said.

One suspect formerly worked in the National Forestry Corporation's Conaf office that administers Chile's forestry policies, and the other is a firefighter.

One of the suspects allegedly is linked to six prior fires in the Penuelas Reserve.

While searching one suspect's residence, investigators found an arson device used to start one of the fires, the Valparaiso prosecutor's office said during a court hearing Saturday.

Chilean officials said they are continuing to investigate the pair's activities to see if they are related to other arson fires.

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Valparaiso is located about 75 miles northwest of Chile's capital, Santiago.

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