Chile wildfires consume over 750 hectares threatening forests, farmland

SANTIAGO (Reuters) -Wildfires have consumed more than 750 hectares (1,853 acres) of forest in Chile, destroying houses and threatening farms and forests as the South American nation faces a summer heatwave across southern and central swathes of the country.

Fire has so far covered some 550 hectares, an area nearly three times the size of Monaco, near the city of Chillan some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from capital Santiago, according to the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf).

Some 200 hectares have also been ravaged in another part of the Nuble region, it added.

"It's like your life is over," said Juan Pradenas, a mechanic whose home in Chillan was destroyed by the fire. "At my age, I have to start fighting again to recover my equipment, I lost all my working tools."

"It is terrible," added Rosa Torres, who lives near Chillan. "The fire was there, we could see it from afar and then the wind changed and in the blink of an eye the fire was here."

Chile's Interior Ministry declared a red alert for Nuble region and Biobio region, further south, as it looks to secure more funding to fight the blaze in areas of more intense forestry and agricultural production.

The ministry has also temporarily closed seven national parks in Santiago and some of Chile's southern regions due to the risk of new fires.

The authorities also ordered the evacuation of rural areas of Nuble region due to the risk of fire.

The government also fears that the Puelche - a phenomenon of hot, dry wind which is expected to arrive over central and southern Chile shortly - could pile on challenges to a region already registering temperatures of 42°C (108°F).

"It is a very complex combination," Agriculture Minister Esteban Valenzuela told journalists.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Natalia Ramos; Editing by Christopher Cushing)