"The fire erupted on Tuesday at six in the evening and no one dealt with it until the following morning," said Mandi Gisser, a friend of the Israeli who is suspected of causing the massive wildfire in Chile's Torres del Paine National Park.
Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday, Gisser said Chilean authorities claim the fire erupted when Rotem Singer left burning toilet paper on the ground after going to the bathroom. "Rotem is certain that the tissue paper he had lit was extinguished. There is no way it lit up again."
Singer burned the toilet paper because Chilean authorities request that hikers do not leave any behind.
Gisser, who was hiking with Singer when the fire erupted, said his friend, who has been released on bail by Chilean authorities after being arrested for alleged negligence, "is a little stressed."
'I little stresed.' Rotem Singer
"We are waiting for the (Israeli) ambassador or consul to arrive. Rotem's parents are supposed to come to Chile as well. He was released a few hours after the arrest, and he is already back at the hostel. He is not eating much, but he is fine," said the friend.
"Only on Wednesday morning did Chilean authorities begin to block access to the park. We did not see any fire truck or plane, and we could not contact any insurance company to say we were stuck. Only at around five pm we were told that we cannot spend the night in the area and that we would have to pay to get out," Gisser recalled.
"The fire was very close, we saw it clearly; giant flames that advanced quickly, but in the other direction. We saw the mountains before us being burned, and during the hour-and-a-half boat ride out of the park we could see flames for kilometers."
Gisser said a number of locals tried to attack Israelis as they were leaving the courthouse where Singer's hearing was held.
Fire rages at Torres del Paine National Park (Photo: AFP)
Some 11,000 hectares (27,200 acres) of woodland and scrub, nearly four percent of the total area of the park, have already been destroyed by the blaze.
Yehezkel Singer, the suspect's father, told Army Radio Sunday that as far as he knows his son "was evacuated along with his friends in the middle of the night by the Chilean army after being told that the fire was approaching them.
"They (Rotem Singer and his friends) were situated more than a kilometer from the blaze. Two days after the fire erupted authorities began interrogating hikers, and Rotem was somehow linked to the blaze – probably because he does not speak Spanish and could not explain himself – although he had nothing to do with it," the father said.
"When I spoke to Rotem on the phone he sounded a bit confused. He feels that he is being framed because the Chileans are looking for a scapegoat. His friends were all cleared of any wrongdoing, and only Rotem has remained a suspect. I plan to travel to Chile today to support him."
Gisser said Singer's translator "did not know English very well, so he did not really know what the interrogators wanted from him. He couldn’t communicate with the investigators. They couldn't understand him and he couldn't understand them."