Suspect denies starting Chilean wildfire

Smoke billows from a fire raging in the Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile last week.

Story highlights

  • "Things rolled out the wrong way through mistranslation," Rotem Zinger tells Israeli radio
  • The 23-year-old is accused of sparking a 31,000-acre wildfire in a Chilean national park
  • A prosecutor says the suspect could face a fine and prison time
  • Authorities have said they don't know when the fire will be under control
The man Chilean authorities accuse of sparking a wildfire that has consumed more than 31,000 acres of a national park said Sunday that he is innocent.
"It is very important to me to say that this wasn't me (who started the fire). They dropped the case on me," Rotem Zinger told Israeli army radio.
The 23-year-old Israeli national said he was surprised by the way the case against him has unfolded.
"I was not explained what I was accused of. I did not give a testimony. I did not confess. Things rolled out the wrong way through mistranslation. I never intended to admit the blame," he said.
Zinger is accused of lighting a fire in a prohibited area of the protected Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile, regional prosecutor Juan Agustin Melendez said. Prosecutors also accuse him of making the situation worse by not reporting to authorities that the fire got out of his control.
If convicted, Zinger could face a fine and 41 to 60 days in prison, Melendez told CNN Chile. Zinger will be required to stay in the region during an investigation, the prosecutor said.
Authorities will be looking into what caused the wildfire for months, Melendez said. Fierce flames have kept investigators from reaching the location where the fire started, he added.
The wildfire has been burning since Tuesday. Hundreds of firefighters are battling the blaze, but authorities have said they don't know when the fire will be under control.
High winds stoke the flames for most of the week, though rains in the area Saturday gave firefighters some help.
"We could be talking about a week. We could be talking about a month or more," said Hugo Knockaert, chief of fire management for Chile's National Forest Corporation.