Chile arrests welder over wildfire near Valparaiso


SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean police have arrested a man they say is responsible for the worst forest fire in decades in the hills above the port of Valparaiso.

Police say Carlos Rivas, a 27-year-old mason, confessed early Saturday to accidentally igniting the blaze with a welder’s torch.

“He’s a worker from the RVC (construction) company who was cutting steel panels with a welder’s torch,” Police Gen. Julio Pineda told State TV.

“We arrived at his home, and he confessed,” Pineda said. “Everything points to an accident but we’ll need to determine if someone else is responsible. For now, he’s the one.”

The RVC construction company has issued a statement denying any wrongdoing. But Rivas said in a written statement that his boss asked him to lie and cover up his role in the fire.

Local television aired images of Rivas being taken into a court in Valparaiso for a hearing followed by a mob of photographers and camera crews. TV reporters said he was joined by distraught family members, among them his mother, who fainted twice before she reached the court room.