A devastating fire ripped through a hotel and casino Monday morning in the southern town of Pucon. The five-star resort complex, which hosts Hotel of the Lake and the Enjoy Casino, was consumed by flames after a short circuit in the casino's electrical system.
More than 200 firefighters from ten different companies battled the fire to little avail, as the blaze completely destroyed the casino and consumed around 60 percent of the hotel. Fortunately, there were no injuries or deaths, as all 378 employees and guests were safely evacuated. Firefighters and police officers who arrived promptly to the scene r soon realized they were overmatched by the flames, which quickly destroyed the wood frame of the hotel and casino. The fire is estimated to have caused US$20 million in damages. The fire will be especially hard for the town of Pucon, which was receiving US$1.2 million per year from the Casino, about 40 percent of the casino's total income. Miguel Miranda, the General Manager of Enjoy Casino, said Monday the damages were catastrophic - ruining "all of the installations in the hotel, the casino, the restaurants, the spa, the convention center, the movie theater, and the administrative areas." The fire has expedited Enjoy Casinos plans to construct another casino in Pucon, which the company now hopes to be completed by the end of this summer. Officials said the fire revealed the inadequacy of equipment and technical capabilities of the local firefighters. It took ten fire departments from Temuco, Pitrufquen, Lonchoche and Villarrica, more than 13 hours to extinguish the flames - mainly due to insufficient equipment, such as extendable ladders, which were needed to reach the top of the five-story hotel. Fire departments in Chile are, by tradition, completely voluntary. There are currently 308 fire departments, run by about 35,000 volunteers. The fire came at the worst possible time for Pucon, a well-known Region IX tourist destination at the foot of the Villarica volcano, which was welcoming 40,000 tourists for its Fiestas Patrias celebrations. The fire is the worse catastrophe in the community since 1951, when another disastrous blaze destroyed seven blocks and displaced more than 500 residents. The Santiago Times