Chilean President Sebastian Pinera invoked anti-terror legislation Thursday after at least six firefighters died in a wildfire he believes was started deliberately.
An unusually hot and dry start to the Chilean summer has seen more than 50 wildfires, fanned by high winds, burn down scores of homes and destroy some 50,000 hectares (123,000 acres) of woodland and brush over the past 10 days.
Authorities suspect several fires that erupted almost simultaneously in the forest regions of Biobio, Maule and Araucania, some 500 to 700 kilometers (310 to 435 miles) south of the capital Santiago, were the work of criminals.
Ten firefighters, private contractors for forestry company Mininco, were trapped Thursday when the blaze they were tackling in a mountain forest near Carahue in Araucania suddenly changed direction.
Six firefighters perished in the flames, two were rescued by helicopter but suffered bad burns, and another is still missing.
The 10th firefighter, Hector Herrera, managed to escape himself.