Skip to content

How a firefighter and a former brigadier caused the huge fire in Valparaíso that left 137 people dead

Although it may seem incredible, the worst fire in the history of Pepper It was caused by a firefighter with the help of a former brigadier. This is the conclusion reached by investigators regarding the origin of the tragedy that last February left 137 dead, thousands of homes destroyed and 16,000 victims in the city of Viña del Mar, in the region. Valparaiso.

The fireman Francisco Ignacio Mondaca Mella22 years old, was arrested on Friday, May 24, by employees of the Investigative Police (PDI). The Public Prosecutor’s Office accuses him of being the author of the fire. Although his alleged accomplice was identified as Francisco Pintoemployee of the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf), would be the intellectual author of the incident.

LOOK: Ecuador decrees new state of exception: is it winning or losing the war against crime?

Both are in preventive detention and was accused of the crime of fire resulting in death.

Vehicles and houses catch fire during a fire in Viña del Mar, Chile, on February 2, 2024. (Photo by Javier TORRES/AFP). (JAVIER TORRES/)

As we remember, on February 2nd, several fires broke out simultaneously in the vicinity of Viña del Mar110 km northwest of Santiago, which later caused the worst tragedy in history Pepper since the 2010 earthquake that left 550 people dead.

The fire started on Friday, February 2, around noon, in four points located in Lake Peñuelas Natural Park and spread quickly across the hills surrounding the city of Viña del Mar and also jumped to the cities of Quilpue It is German Villageall in the region Valparaisodue to strong gusts of wind and extreme temperatures.

According to the newspaper La Tercera, which had access to the official investigation, as soon as the emergency was declared on February 2, by order of the Public Ministry, PDI employees arrived at the places where the fires started. On route F-718 it was possible to verify that there were four fires. The sectors were identified as Las Taguas, Antena de Melosilla, La Isla and Las Tablas.

Two of the fire sources were extinguished a few meters after the start, but sources 3 and 4 could not be extinguished and are the ones that caused the major emergency. In focus 3, the researchers found important evidenceindicated La Tercera.

“By exploring the affected area, on the ground, among grass and leaves, it was possible to identify the presence of a device, which presents preparation in its preparation”, says the PDI report accessed by La Tercera. It was a cigarette butt surrounded by matches tied with a string.

The researchers’ report indicates that the mechanism found in focus 3 was not completely burned, but rather charred. “The fire did not go over, but advanced according to the availability of fuel”, maintains the investigation.

An incendiary device was found in the detained firefighter's home.  (PDI).

An incendiary device was found in the detained firefighter’s home. (PDI).

Having this key evidence, The PDI tested its operation and the damage that this mechanism caused.

A similar mechanism was found intact last Friday in Mondaca’s home, during the search carried out after his arrest. Specifically, in inside a cell phone case They were found cigarettes that had several matches attached to them.

Firefighter Francisco Ignacio Mondaca Mella was arrested.

Firefighter Francisco Ignacio Mondaca Mella was arrested.

After finding the key test which determined that The fire was intentionally set, investigators searched for possible witnesses and reviewed security cameras in the area. After hours of analyzing the images, they managed to detect a list of cars, of which they came up with “two vehicles of interest”. a Fiat brand, gray, and a white Suzuki S-Pressoreview La Tercera.

Supported by more video footage, the PI reconstructed the routes these cars took on February 2nd. So they found the sign Fiat and managed to speak to the driver, who was interviewed and stated that he was passing through the fire area on work. The person also provided important information, stating that on February 2nd they managed to spot a white car.

La Tercera claims that while the police were visiting the Placilathey spotted the white Suzuki S-Presso that they had seen on cameras and for which they had no license plate. It was parked in front of the 13th Placilla Fire Company.

Once the vehicle’s data was obtained, the police carried out investigations to find out who was driving it. This is how they managed to reach firefighter Francisco Mondacawho had been honored by his company a few weeks ago for completing 12 months on active duty.

The researchers followed Mondaca to determine who he frequented and what places he frequented. They were able to determine that I was a volunteer firefighter for a year and a half. and who also worked on events for a foundation run by singer DJ Méndez in the region.

The agents also requested judicial authorization to know the call traffic of Mondaca and the places where he moved. Thus, they determined that on February 2, before noon, he had been at the Route F-718, where the fires started.

The location of the fires in Valparaíso.  (AFP).

The location of the fires in Valparaíso. (AFP).

La Tercera reported that the telephone number of Mondaca He provided details of his calls. The firefighter made a call to Franco Pintothe employee of the National Forestry Corporation.

When investigating Pinto, they found that he was already on the police radar, as he testified as a witness to another fire in the Peñuelas Reserve, where he worked. This time, the type of photos he took in that incident caught the attention of the police, says La Tercera.

After all the information has been collected, The Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office reconstructed the routes and positioned Mondaca, through georeferenced records, at the location of the fires. Now, the case against him contains thousands of data and hundreds of pages that place him as the author of the fire.

The prosecutor specializing in fires, Osvaldo Ossandón, explained that in the fire vehicle Mondaca Flares and fireworks were found.

According to the AP agency, the Public Ministry has currently excluded antecedents that indicate psychiatric conditions linked to pyromania on both detainees and pointed to a economic motivation to generate fires. This is based on the statement of Mondacawhich states that the other accused, Francisco PintoI would have talked about a greater benefit when there are multiple fires to secure the work.

The Conaf brigade officer reportedly told him that “If the fire season actually continues, more personnel will be hiredovertime is earned and contracts (Conaf) are extended.”

Pinto would have shown Mondaca how to light the fire so that the fire caught and was successful, as well as showing him how build craft incendiary devices.

“We have evidence that they previously agreed to carry out conduct of this type when the meteorological conditions were suitable for a fire of such proportions,” said the regional prosecutor of Valparaíso, Claudia Perivancich.

A woman with her baby walks past burned-out vehicles after a forest fire in Quilpue, Valparaíso region, Chile, on February 4, 2024. (Photo by RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP).

A woman with her baby walks past burned-out vehicles after a forest fire in Quilpue, Valparaíso region, Chile, on February 4, 2024. (Photo by RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP). (RODRIGO ARANGUA/)

Mondaca was arrested on Friday at the 13th Placilla Fire Company. Sources involved in the case told the newspaper El Mercurio that his colleagues “couldn’t believe it, they said he’s a calm guy.”

Juan Paredes, superintendent of the Valparaíso Fire Department, stated that “He passed all psychological tests well.”

“We are completely devastated by what happened.. “It is a completely isolated incident and we want to clarify it as quickly as possible,” said commander Vicente Maggiolo.

“We have served Valparaiso and we cannot allow ourselves to have this type of situation, so we are going to make a much stronger statement”, he added.

In turn, the Executive Director of Conaf, Christian Little, said he was surprised and described it as “a pain” that affects the institution and its workers that one of its former directors – who worked for the organization for 10 years during the time of fires — is involved in this.

“Although it is very shocking, it is good news,” Interior Minister Carolina Toha said on Saturday. “The fact that they are found and face justice is an act of reparation” for the victims. She added that it will be necessary to reinforce mechanisms for controlling the profile of those who enter these institutions.

Source: Elcomercio

Share this article:
globalhappenings news.jpg
most popular