Electric co-ops work to keep power on as wildfires break out across Chile

Electricity infrastructure has been affected by the disaster, which has killed 24 people and destroyed 1,000 homes

An outbreak of wildfires has caused havoc in Chile, with electric co-ops among organisations working to stay operational through the disaster.

The forest fires, which have been burning across the south-central region of the country, spread into new areas this week, prompting president Gabriel Boric to declare a state of emergency in the southern states of Biobio, Nuble and Araucania.

So far the distaster has cost 24 lives, destroyed over 1,000 houses and affected 300,000 hectares of land.

Power supplies were threatened as electric co-op infrastructure was caught up in the fires and steps have been taken to restore service.

Two fires, one of which affected the distribution network at a river crossing, affected the Cooperativa Eléctrica Curicó. “Fortunately, thanks to the good construction quality and use of conductor of good quality, the network withstood the ravages of the fire,” general manager Alejandro Toledo told Co-op News.

The co-op is carrying out preventive maintenance tasks, he added, including thermography, inspections and the felling of trees that could fall on the network in the event of a fire.

Cooperativa Eléctrica Curicó carrying out preventive maintenance tasks

“We have had to set up a stock of equipment and materials to be able to replace quickly in the event of a contingency that damages the network,” said Toledo.

“Our brigades remain alert and our operations centre coordinates with the fire stations to be able to react quickly both to cut off the supply when fire-fighters require it for safety, and to replace it as soon as possible so that customers are not affected by a loss of power supply.”

Also affected was Copelec, an electric co-op based in Chillán, central Chile, south of the River Ñuble.

“Despite the difficult conditions, Copelec is deployed with all of its emergency crews to restore service as soon as possible to our co-operatives and affected customers,” it told members in a statement. “We thank you very much for your understanding in these hard times that our region and the south of Chile are going through.”

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