Wood smoke smothers Coyhaique, Chile, in June and July. Yet despite the WHO ranking its air worst in the Americas, residents are reluctant to alter their habits
Photographs by Claudio Frías
“I was born and raised beside a roaring fire,” says Yasna Seguel proudly, as wet snowflakes tap against the kitchen window behind her and orange flames warm an outstretched palm. A tobacco-yellow stain soaks into the table cloth as she sets her mate gourd down to select a fresh log for the fire.
Every evening through the bitterly cold winter months of June and July, the southern city of Coyhaique, the most populous in the region of Aysén in Chilean Patagonia, is smothered by a thick, fragrant blanket of damp wood smoke that clings to the hillsides.
The problem isn’t one that we can solve without a sustained, coordinated effort
Yasna Seguel says she would not change to a cleaner fuel even if it was cheaper than the logs she currently burns
A street in the eastern suburbs of Coyhaique shrouded in smoke
Marta Muñoz and Luis Espinoza. When Muñoz developed a chronic respiratory condition, Espinoza removed the kitchen’s wood-burning stove
Firewood loaded on to trucks in downtown Coyhaique
We need to change attitudes more than anything
Firewood for sale in a truck in Coyhaique