The worst wildfires in Chile's modern history completely consumed the town of Santa Olga, destroying 1,500 homes. The body of one person was found under charred remains in the town. Authorities found another body burned inside a destroyed house in the coastal city of Concepcion, about 85 miles (140km) south of Santa Olga.

Chile forest fire incendios forestales
A woman and children look at the remains of a burnt house in Santa OlgaRodrigo Garrido/Reuters

Officials later reported that a firefighter also died after a water truck rolled over. Dozens of teary-eyed firefighters took a moment from battling the blazes to pay homage to one of their colleagues who died in the flames while he evacuated a family to safety. Two police officers also died. The Ministry of the Interior identified the firefighter as Hernan Aviles Gonzalez, and the two police sergeants as Fredi Fernandez Garces and Mauricio Roca Sepulveda.

Chile forest fire incendios forestales
A firefighter mourns the loss of a colleague during a forest fire in the coastal resort of LlicoMartin Bernetti/AFP
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
A firefighter takes a break as he and colleagues try to extinguish wildfires in Santa OlgaPablo Sanhueza/Reuters

Carlos Valenzuela, the mayor of Constitucion, said the fire service had abandoned Santa Olga in order to preserve their own lives due to the strength of the flames. He said that between 6,000 and 7,000 people in the region had lost their homes.

Forest fires are a regular feature of Chile's hot, arid summers, but a nearly decade-long drought combined with historically high temperatures have created tinder-dry conditions. Emergency services have battled the flames non-stop for days with thousands of firefighters on the ground and helicopters and small planes in the air.

Residents of some communities have been battling the fires themselves, without any protective gear and often using just branches or bottles of water in a frantic effort to save their homes, pasture and livestock. But those efforts are often undone as winds or smouldering ash spread the fires anew.

Chile forest fire incendios forestales
A man stands next to a wood depot on fire in Santa OlgaRodrigo Garrido/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
Firefighters try to stop a fire in Santa OlgaRodrigo Garrido/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
People embrace and cry next to a burnt house in Santa OlgaPablo Sanhueza/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
People look for salvageable items among the debris of a burnt house in Santa OlgaRodrigo Garrido/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
The remains of burnt properties are seen through the window of a destroyed house in Santa OlgaPablo Sanhueza/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
Bees sit on a burnt honeycomb in Santa OlgaPablo Sanhueza/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
Firefighters take a break while trying to extinguish wildfires that are ravaging wide swathes of Chile's central-south regionsPablo Sanhueza/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
People hug while standing next to burnt houses in Santa OlgaPablo Sanhueza/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
A man looks out at the devastation caused by the worst wildfires in Chile's modern historyPablo Sanhueza/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
A woman looks at the remains of a burnt housePablo Sanhueza/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
A woman walks through the remains of burnt houses in Santa OlgaPablo Sanhueza/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
People react while sitting in a car near burnt houses in Santa OlgaPablo Sanhueza/Reuters
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
Burnt-out vehicles in the town of Santa OlgaMartin Bernetti/AFP
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
The remains of homes in the town of Santa Olga, which was destroyed by a forest fireMartin Bernetti/AFP
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
Burnt-out cars and home are seen in the town of Santa Olga, which was destroyed by a forest fire, 330km south of SantiagoMartin Bernetti/AFP
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
Men wearing face masks are seen against the flames of a huge forest fire in ConstitucionMartin Bernetti/AFP
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
Firefighters work to put out a forest fire in Constitucion, 359km south of SantiagoMartin Bernetti/AFP
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
A firefighter helicopter refills its water bucket during a forest fire in the coastal resort of LlicoMartin Bernetti/AFP
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
Martin Bernetti/AFP
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
Residents evacuate from Llico, 276 kilometres south of SantiagoMartin Bernetti/AFP
Chile forest fire incendios forestales
People ride in a car loaded with household items as they drive past burnt houses in Santa OlgaPablo Sanhueza/Reuters

The ferocity of the flames prompted President Michelle Bachelet to declare a state of emergency, deploy troops and ask for international help, calling it "the greatest forest disaster" in Chile's history. A Boeing 747-400 "Super Tanker" arrived in Chile from the US to help fight the blazes. The world's largest firefighting aircraft can dump nearly 20,000 gallons (73,000 litres) of fire retardant or water. Bachelet said in her Twitter account that Chile also had accepted a supertanker plane from the Russian government.

At least some of the fires may have been started intentionally and there had been a number of arrests in relation to ongoing investigations, Bachelet said.