Major Wildfire in Israel

Major Wildfire in Israel

05 Dezember 2010

This 250m resolution satellite image by the MODIS instrument shows the Mt. Karmel region in the SW corner of the image,
with no visible fire signal or smoke plume. New fires burning in the Lebanon, mainly South of Beirut.
Satellite scene depicted by MODIS/Aqua at 10:40h UTC, 5 December 2010.
Satellite image source: NASA Terra satellite, selected and evaluated by GFMC.

The next 250m resolution satellite image by the MODIS instrument shows the Mt. Karmel region in the SW corner of the image,
still with no visible fire signal or smoke plume. The fires in the Lebanon, mainly South of Beirut, continue to burn.
Satellite scene depicted by MODIS/Terra at 13:30h UTC, 5 December 2010.
Satellite image source: NASA Terra satellite, selected and evaluated by GFMC.

This 250m resolution satellite image by the MODIS instrument shows the location of the wildfires in the Mt. Karmel region, Israel,
in the morning hours of yesterday, Saturday, 4 December 2010.
Satellite image source: NASA Terra satellite, selected and evaluated by GFMC.

Close up of wildfires burning on 4 December 2010, as depicted by RapidEye,
processed by Sertit under the activation of the Charter.
Lower map: False colour image. ©

Mt. Carmel Wildfire Picture Gallery (2-5 December 2010) (PDF, 0.9 MB)

News Update from GFMC:
The GFMC has been providing advice to Israel government and several nations concerning firefighting support to Israel.
A seminar with Evergreen Inc. in Washington was cancelled due to the Evergreen Supertanker deployment to Israel.
The Evergreen Supertanker arrived in Israel this morning and started aerial firefighting operations at 09:00 local time.

GFMC update 18:10h UTC:
According to reports of Operations Control in Israel the wildfire in Mt. Carmel are under control.
Mopping up will continue over the coming days. Prime Minister Netanjahu visited the B747 Supertanker and thanks the crew for efficient aerial firefighting operations.

Cabinet communique

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 5 December 2010:

1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks:

“First, I would like to say that our hearts go out to the families who are laying to rest their loved ones. The entire nation identifies with your pain and with the heroism of those who perished. Today, the Cabinet is meeting in Tirat Hacarmel in order to discuss providing assistance to the citizens who were evacuated from their homes and whose homes were destroyed in the massive wildfire. We must help the evacuees, rebuild their homes and rehabilitate the infrastructures and do so as quickly as possible. I spoke with the ministers before the meeting and it is important to say this here and now: I do not want delays. I do not want bureaucracy. I want processes to be shortened. I want quick solutions. I want all of the people – within days – to be able to return to their homes or to alternative housing, until the reconstruction work is finished.

Today, we will also launch the action that will lead to a plan to rehabilitate the Carmel forests. On this issue, I would like to thank the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Nature and Parks Authority, and the Jewish National Fund. I know that you are doing much on this matter, especially now. We are still in the midst of a massive forest fire. The firefighters are doing holy work but it must be understood that this kind of wildfire can only be defeated and extinguished from the air. On this we have been working day and night. We have mobilized over 30 aircraft from the nations of the world. Today, a gigantic “Supertanker” plane that we rented from an American company is due to go into action. I believe that with these tools, it will be possible to contain and extinguish the fire.

It must be understood that massive forest fires are fundamentally different from routine fires. The only way to deal with these wildfires is to integrate not only ground forces but aerial forces as well, local and international alike. Thus the major powers have acted. In a massive wildfire in California a few years ago, the US received assistance from eight countries; it neither hesitated nor was ashamed to request this assistance, including from countries from which we have made similar requests. In last summer’s massive wildfire in Russia, Russia neither hesitated nor was ashamed to request assistance from Ukraine and from other countries. We also did not hesitate, nor were we ashamed, in requesting such assistance. This is what we did and it has led to results. We will take control of, contain and – in the end – extinguish the fire.

An additional subject is the establishment of a local aerial firefighting force. Even if we had such a force, and we are working on it, it will not always free us of the need to mobilize international support, but it would give us the possibility of bringing an aerial ‘cup of water’ to fires.

The issue of closing the gaps in the conventional, ground-based, not aerial, firefighting network is an important issue. The Government has begun to deal with this issue, which has demanded a solution for 62 years. We have started to deal with it. We have added budgets. We are promoting changes but this issue has always been separate from that of massive brushfires.

I would like to take this opportunity to again thank the firefighters, police, soldiers, MDA and ZAKA personnel, the municipality employees, the voluntary organizations and Israelis who have shown exemplary conduct. There has been a general mobilization of the entire nation in a display of mutual responsibility at this crucial time.

I would like to also take this opportunity to thank the heads of state and government that have extended important assistance to the State of Israel at this time. I would like to thank Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and the people at his ministry, as well as National Security Council Chairman Uzi Arad and his people, for working day and night to create links, clarify the information and put me and the Government in contact with these people so that they could help us put out the Carmel fire.”

2. The Cabinet discussed the issue of rehabilitation and rebuilding in the wake of the Carmel wildfire and decided as follows:

A. A steering committee will be established, chaired by Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Eyal Gabai and with the participation of his counterparts from the Finance, Health, Public Security, Interior, Justice, Tourism, Construction and Housing, Social Welfare and Social Services, Environmental Protection and Agriculture and Rural Development ministries, along with representatives of the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority. The committee will formulate a plan to remove impediments in the process of repairing the damages of the Carmel wildfire and restoring normal life.

B. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, in cooperation with Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Shalom Simhon, the Finance Ministry, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Jewish National Fund, will formulate and present to the Steering Committee, within 21 days, a plan to rehabilitate the animal and plant life that was damaged by the fire, including campgrounds, animal parks and the Carmel Farm. The plan will include – inter alia – detailed means, costs, sources and timetables and will specify which bodies will be responsible for its implementation.

C. The Prime Minister’s Office Division for Coordination, Follow-up and Control, in coordination with the Interior, Finance, Construction and Housing, National Infrastructures and Environmental Protection ministries, will formulate and present, to the Steering Committee, within seven days, a municipal assistance plan. The plan will include – inter alia – compensation for the local councils for expenditures and damages that were incurred by the fire and which are not covered by any kind of insurance, as well as an aid package for the communities that were hurt. The financial compensation and aid will provide responses to – inter alia – expenditures incurred in evacuating and absorbing populations (lodging, food, transportation, etc.), operating emergency networks, participating in the firefighting, cleaning up and repairing infrastructures (water, electricity, sewage, highways, lighting, etc.), as well as providing assistance to residents via the municipal services necessary in wake of the fire. This assistance will apply to cases in which damage, even partial, is not covered by valid insurance policies. In the first stage, the Finance Ministry will allocate NIS 60 million for the aid package. The Steering Committee will consider additional budgetary allocations should these become necessary.

D. Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz will map the transportation infrastructure that has been damaged and formulate a plan for its rehabilitation. The plan will be submitted to the Steering Committee within seven days, for approval and implementation.

E. The Cabinet noted the statement by Social Welfare and Social Services Minister Yitzhak Herzog regarding the reinforcement of the social welfare and social services network in the areas affected by the fire. Minister Herzog will continue to reinforce the various social welfare and social service activities and formulate and present, to the Steering Committee, in coordination with the Health, Finance, Pensioner Affairs, Culture and Sport ministries, as well as the National Insurance Institute and the relevant local councils, a plan to rehabilitate and strengthen citizens, local councils and communities that were affected by the fire, while emphasizing the strengthening of local community leadership and assistance to special-needs populations. The plan will be submitted within seven days and will include – inter alia – budgetary frameworks, means costs and timetables, and will specify which bodies will be responsible for its implementation.

The Social Welfare and Social Services Ministry will coordinate the Government’s work with the voluntary organizations regarding social services.

F. The Finance Ministry’s Government Housing Administration and the Construction and Housing Ministry will, immediately, as per the planning and building laws, station mobile structures in communities in which homes and public structures were burnt. This is so as to facilitate the immediate return of residents, whose homes were burnt, to their communities. The GHA will formulate and present, to the Steering Committee, within 60 days, a policy regarding the future evacuation of the mobile structures.

G. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz will submit, to the Steering Committee, within four days, a map of the various damages caused as a result of the fire and the relevant details regarding private, public and Government insurance coverage. The Finance Minister will also formulate and submit, to the Steering Committee, within an additional four days, the outline of an efficient policy for providing a fair and quick response to implementing the policies, as well regarding damages that were not fully insured.

3. The Cabinet noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided to appoint Tamir Pardo to succeed Meir Dagan as Director of the Mossad, effective 1 January 2011, for a five-year term.

4. The Cabinet held a further discussion of the national plan to ‘bring minds’ back to Israel.

5. The Cabinet decided that upon the conclusion of the transfer of the responsibilities of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry’s Unit for Foreign Workers to the Interior Ministry’s Population, Migration and Border Crossings Administration, the authority of the responsible official (as per Article 1 of the 1991 Foreign Workers Law) will be vested in the Population Administration Director.


Latest Updates (morning of 5 December 2010):

New photos document tragic last moments of bus caught in Carmel fire

New images uncovered by Haaretz and taken by a amateur photographer reveal the final moments of what may be the most dramatic moments of the wildfire that has been ravaging the Carmel since Thursday.

On Thursday, a bus filled with Prison Service cadets burned completely, killing 36 of its passengers, after a fallen tree blocked the road it was travelling on, trapping it in flames
Thirty-six of the fallen were prison service officers course cadets that were on the way to Damon jail to evacuate its prisoners from the path of the flames. Two of the fallen were northern region police officers, and one was a 16-year-old volunteer firefighter.

The Photos released on Sunday, taken by tour guide and Carmel expert Dan Oren, depict the trapped bus in what seems like minutes before taking alight. “On Thursday afternoon we saw a massive fire going down the mountain toward us, with smoke rising to the sky,” Oren told Haaretz.

“The fire began rolling down. The fire trucks tried to form a blocking line, but the flames leaped over the road. At that point we were still looking and taking pictures,” Oren added, saying that suddenly “we noticed that there was a bus in the fire – about 400 meters as the crow flies from where we were.”

“I hardly managed to aim the camera and take a few pictures, and then a wall of fire just covered the entire area. We longer saw the bus. It was almost as if it vanished, and we saw only fire. Flames as high as 30 or 40 meters,” Oren added.

Bus trapped in Carmel wildfire, Dec. 2, 2010.                    Bus trapped in Carmel fire blaze, Dec. 2, 2010                Bus trapped in Carmel wildfire, Dec. 2, 2010.

Bus trapped in Carmel wildfire, 2 December 2010

© Daan Oren


Nearly half of Carmel forest destroyed by blaze

Officials said Saturday that it could take dozens of years for all of the area destroyed by the fire to be rehabilitated.

The 50,000 dunams that have been consumed by flames represent just under half of the 115,000 dunam Carmel forest reserve, which is managed by the Nature and Parks Authority (NPA) and also includes Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemet L’Israel (JNF/KKL) land.

JNF chair Efi Stenzler said there were 200 JNF firefighters, who had received special training, as well as 12 fire trucks and assorted other equipment contributing to the firefighting efforts.

“After the Second Lebanon War, when we came under fire from Katyushas which started fires, we decided to train our own small force. With the help of donations from around the world, we bought the equipment.”

The main fire fighting force in Israel is the Israel Fire Department, he said, but the JNF firefighters are doing their part. They have been fighting the blazes around Usfiya, Daliat al-Carmel and Ein Hud since Thursday.

“We will go tree by tree to make sure they are not still burning. After the flames are put out, our foresters will go tree by tree again to see what can be saved and what has to be replanted. We will replant oak trees, but also almond and pomegranate trees so that people can have shade but also see fruit,” Stenzler said. Part of the reserve is made up of natural groves and part of hand-planted trees.

For the JNF, fighting fires is nothing new.

“This year alone, we fought 1,260 fires on 21,000 dunams. It was just the dry conditions and the winds that caused this fire to be so massive,” Stenzler told The Jerusalem Post.

“I’d like to remind all those who set fires either purposely or negligently [that] it takes dozens of years for trees to grow and only a minute to burn,” he noted.

He said that, while it was still too early to tell exactly how long it would take for the trees and greenery to grow back, the time required would certainly be substantial.

“It could take dozens of years, but we know how to do it. We have some of the best experts in the world whose specialty is rehabilitating forests after fires. The areas that burned during the Second Lebanon War [five years ago] are green again,” Stenzler declared.

A wildlife sanctuary that houses the largest breeding group of raptors in the world narrowly avoided the flames as over 100 NPA rangers and personnel fought off the blaze with the help of one of the fire-fighting airplanes from Greece. The raptors were evacuated on Thursday while the other inhabitants of the sanctuary, a herd of deer, have been put in a fireproof enclosure, with NPA personnel barring the flames’ path.

The NPA doesn’t have firefighters per se. They received two old fire trucks from the Haifa Union of Cities a year and a half ago as a donation in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, NPA spokesman Omri Gal told the Post on Saturday night.

“After the Second Lebanon War, when we realized no one was focusing on fires in open areas, we arranged to get the fire trucks.

We also have 15 tankers which hook up to the back of a 4×4.

“When it became clear on Thursday that this was going to be a serious fire, the NPA sent out a Green Flame general call asking anyone and everyone to come fight the blaze,” said Gal, who stood side by side with his fellow rangers unsuccessfully trying to quell the blaze on Saturday. One hundred and twenty answered the call – nearly the entire staff of the NPA.

“The local rangers have been guiding a lot of the firefighting teams to the hotspots, since firefighters from Herzliya, say, don’t know their way around the Carmel,” he said.

Gal said it was very hard and upsetting work.

“There’s a lot of frustration putting out a fire in an area that the rest of the year you are trying to conserve and seeing it all burnt.

There’s not a single tree left untouched,” he lamented. Gal added that it was also depressing because they hadn’t managed to contain the flames, even though they did prevent the wildlife sanctuary from being consumed.

JNF firefighters, meanwhile, led a successful concerted effort to protect the Yearot HaCarmel Spa from being overtaken by the blaze on Saturday. They also took part in the efforts along the line between Nir Etzion and Daliat al-Carmel.

The Environmental Protection Ministry urged those in the general vicinity of the flames who did not need to be evacuated to nevertheless stay indoors with the windows shut and an air conditioning system (not a window unit) running.

A ministry spokesman said there was no danger of hazardous materials being stored in the path of the flames at the moment.

Meanwhile, emergency fundraising campaigns have already been launched. JNF, which is also the fundraising arm of Friends of Israeli Firefighers in the US, said it was aiming to raise $10 million and $500,000 of donated funds were already making their way to Israel. Similarly, United Israel Appeal/Keren Hayesod sent out an emergency call to all of its branches on Thursday. A delegation from the former Soviet Union will be making a solidarity visit on Sunday to show support and to start raising funds for rehabilitating the area.


Israel hopes to have wildfire under control Sunday

Israeli firefighters could bring a deadly wildfire sweeping through precious northern woodlands since last week under control Sunday, a fire service spokesman said.

Two teenage brothers were arrested Saturday on suspicion they caused the blaze, which has killed 41 people, through negligence. The minors are to be brought before a court Sunday for an extension of their detention, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld said he could not confirm Israeli media reports that the boys inadvertently sparked the blaze with a bonfire and a water pipe.

The fire, the worst in Israel’s history, has been tearing through the Carmel forest near Israel’s third-largest city, Haifa, since Thursday. It has caught the country — which prides itself on its technological prowess, ability to improvise and rescue expertise — woefully unprepared.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appealed to the international community for help, and countries in the immediate region and as far afield as Russia and the U.S. have dispatched planes, firefighters and materials to help battle the blaze. Israel Radio reported that Australia would also send an aerial firefighting team and firefighting chemicals.

“The general picture is better, more optimistic,” firefighters’ spokesman Boaz Rakia told a news conference Sunday. While it will take days to extinguish the fire completely, he said he hoped it might be brought under control Sunday.

Although the forest fire is small by international standards, it is considered a calamity in Israel, where only 7 percent of the land is wooded. The Carmel forest makes up 5 percent of that forested land and nearly half of it has been destroyed in the fire.

Rosenfeld, the police spokesman, said he had no details about the circumstances that led to the fire. But he said the two arrested teenagers “are suspected of negligence at the scene where the fire began (and) of causing the huge fire.”

The boys’ aunt told Army Radio that her nephews were not responsible for the blaze. “They are innocent, they didn’t do it. They are good, quiet, innocent, educated boys from a good home. They don’t smoke water pipes, like the rumor that’s spreading,” said the aunt, who was identified only as Abir.

A string of apparently unrelated brush fires has broken out in northern Israel and the Jerusalem area since Thursday and police suspect arson in some of those cases. Those fires have been quickly contained. Two suspects have been arrested in connection with a Jerusalem-area fire Sunday morning, Rosenfeld said.

Grieving families continued to bury the dead on Sunday. Most were prison guards whose bus was engulfed by flames Thursday while rushing to evacuate a prison. A 16-year-old volunteer firefighter also died while trying to save people aboard the bus.

More than 17,000 people had been evacuated from their homes before officials gave some of them the all-clear to return on Saturday.

Israeli firefighters have complained for years of undersized crews, outdated equipment and minimal supplies. While Israel has a highly sophisticated air force, its firefighting force doesn’t have a single plane. It ran out of flame retardants on the first day of the blaze.

Netanyahu said Saturday that Israel would form an airborne firefighting force. Later Sunday, his Cabinet is to hold its weekly meeting in the north in an expression of solidarity with stricken residents and to convey the message that the government plans to compensate victims and rehabilitate the area, he said.

The government’s failure to be prepared for a large-scale fire has prompted a round of finger-pointing at various officials from Netanyahu down, but there is little expectation that heads will roll.

“Ultimately, the blame is going to be pinned on the low man on the totem pole, that very same family from Usifiya, whose hookah burned down our Carmel, and not on the people responsible for this unfathomable and unforgivable failure, in which the entire state of Israel doesn’t have any recourse except for the planes owned by the superpowers Cyprus and Greece which were urgently called in to put out our fire,” commentator Sima Kadmon wrote in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper.


Social agency answers appeal for humanitarian help as Israel fights wildfire

At a time when thousands of people plan to travel to Israel from the Midwest and around the globe for Christmas and the winter school break, the country is reeling from the worst fire in its history.

Believed to have been started at a campsite, the fire is closing roads, consuming more than 10,000 acres and threatening lives and homes near Haifa. Israel officials say the fires are difficult to contain due to high winds, dry brush and mountain terrain.

Firefighters and equipment from several countries have responded to Israel’s pleas for assistance. However, the country that is often among the first on the scene to help in other nations’ times of emergency, is now asking for help.

Several Jewish social agencies have set up funds where people can send donations. Among them is B’nai B’rith International, headquartered in Washington D.C. with regional offices across the United States including Chicago.

“As Isreal suffers from the worst fire in the nation’s history, B’nai B’rith International has opened its Israel Emergency Fund to raise money to relieve the human suffering and property losses of this catastrophe,” said BBI Chairman of the Executive Allan Jacobs, Chicago.

“While we are encouraged by the response of countries such as the United States, Eqypt, Turkey, Russia, Greece, Spain, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Coatia and many more, we are asking for donations from the American Public,” Jacobs said.

He added, “B’nai B’rith together with IsraAid, the Israel Aid Agency have been there for other countries suffering disasters with humanitarian aid, most recently with one of the first field hospitals in Haiti. During this holiday season we ask for support.”


UN offers Israel help with deadly bushfires

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has offered to mobilize international help for Israel, to battle a major forest fire which has killed at least 41 people.

Aircraft and helicopters from Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Britain are supporting Israeli firefighters with more than 17 thousand people now moved to safety, including from parts of Haifa, Israel’s third biggest city.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. has thanked the international community for their help so far.


Australia answers Israel’s plea for help fighting bushfires

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said today a team of aviation experts would be deployed within 24 hours to help control and direct fire-fighting aircraft.

It comes following a formal request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to help battle the forest fire, which began last week near the northern city of Haifa.

The team will be led by Victoria’s chief fire officer Ewan Waller, who was one of those at the helm during Black Saturday.

A local resident carrying a bucket runs through a burnt area in Ein Hod, northern Israel,
as the worst blaze in the country’s history licked through hilly forests near Haifa.

Australia is also making moves to provide chemical fire retardants if Israel requests for them, and will leave the door open to possibly providing more resources.

After a day in which more than a dozen international firefighting planes and helicopters worked tirelessly to douse the flames, officials were cautiously optimistic that the tide might finally be turning.

“I think that we are on the way to controlling it, but I don’t want to tempt fate,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a news conference, shortly after nightfall local time.

“There has been outstanding cooperation here today,” he said, noting that 10 international firefighting teams had joined the operation with the number set to double today.

Israel was also expecting the arrival overnight of a Boeing Supertanker, the largest aerial firefighting plane in the world which is the only plane to be able to fly sorties at night, he said.

The fire, racing through the pine forests on Mount Carmel just south of the port city of Haifa, is the biggest inferno in Israel’s 62-year history.

So far, it has claimed 41 lives and forced more than 17,000 people out of their homes.

Most of the dead were prison guards, along with two policemen and a 16-year-old volunteer for the fire service, police said, noting that 17 people were injured and four still missing.

Earlier, fire chiefs also spoke of a slight improvement in the situation.

“We have to be very careful when we speak of controlling the fire but we can say, with all the usual precautions, that we can detect a tendency that the fire is weakening,” said Boaz Rakia, one of the head firemen.

But he warned against “premature optimism.”

As darkness fell and the planes stopped working, high winds fanned the flames, with reports of the blaze spreading towards the Druze town of Daliyat al-Carmel and fires breaking out in other areas.

However, in other areas where the threat was believed to be contained, such as Tirat HaCarmel, police allowed some people to return to homes they had evacuated.

As the massive operation continued, police said they arrested two youths from the Druze village of Isfiya on suspicion of starting the fire “through negligence” by leaving behind burning embers after a family picnic.

Throughout the day, planes and helicopters from around the globe had flown countless sorties, backed by smaller aircraft which were releasing gallons of fire retardant in the hope of stopping the fire which is tearing through a vast reserve south of Haifa.

On the ground, more than 550 firefighters worked round the clock – around 450 Israelis backed up by some 100 firemen from Bulgaria and a number from Jordan.

As some 16 countries pledged assistance, Netanyahu said aerial reinforcements would be the only way to extinguish the fire.

“It is clear that the battle to stop the fire will be decided from the air,” his office quoted him as saying.

So far, 13 international planes and helicopters have been helping Israel battle the blaze: five planes from Greece, two from Turkey, two from Russia and one from France, backed by two helicopters from a British military base in Cyprus, which itself has sent a police helicopter.

Another nine were to arrive late last night, including two planes from the United States, two from France and two from Russia, as well as two helicopters from Russia and one from Switzerland.

A similar number was due to touch down today – five from Spain, three from the United States and one from Germany, Netanyahu’s office said.

Among those offering help were Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who offered the three units from the Palestinian civil defence forces, Netanyahu told the press conference, saying he had expressed his appreciation.

US President Barack Obama also promised to send 45 tonnes of fire retardant as well as 12,000 litres of class A foam to help battle the Carmel blaze, as well as experts and firefighting equipment, a White House aide said.

By nightfall on Friday, the fire had incinerated more than 10,000 acres of land, with flames reaching the southern outskirts of Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city.


Carmel wildfire punishment from God?

Shas’ spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef implied on Saturday night that the fire raging on Mount Carmel in northern Israel was a punishment from God for religious offenses committed by the area’s residents.

During his weekly sermon, the rabbi read a section from the Babylonian Talmud, which states that “the fire only exists in a place where Shabbat is desecrated.”

“A number of houses were destroyed, entire neighborhoods were lost – all under supervision,” the rabbi said. He recommended that people “study Torah, engage in good deeds, repent, observe Shabbat, and know the entire Halacha, and thanks to this God will apply a full recovery.”

On Friday, a day after fires began blazing on the Mount Carmel range, ultra-Orthodox newspapers called for self-scrutiny, saying the disaster was a sign from God.

In its editorial, haredi paper Hamodia said the Carmel wildfires demanded that the people of Israel scrutinize their acts and ask themselves if they caused the disaster.

Under the title “Who by Fire,” the editorial said this was the time for each and every one to look inward and do what is required to improve their lives.

To touch its readers, the paper quoted two phrases from the Yom Kippur liturgy, “Unetanneh Tokef”, according to which each one will be judged on the Day of Judgment – “who will live” and “who will die.”

The Hamevaser newspaper wrote that an investigation committee would probably be set up, but said we must not forget that there are things beyond human control. The editorial noted that in legal language it is known as “force majeure,” and that we know there is a directing force from above without whom it is impossible to even lift a finger “here below.” The Heavens caused the events and lead them to such disastrous levels, the editorial claimed.

“The warning sign sent (Thursday) from above joins the previous warning sign, when we are already in the midst of drought, after a number of years of insufficient rain,” according to the editorial. “These warning signs are sent to wake us, to prod the sleeping from their sleep… Each one must come to conclusions and drive crookedness from his heart… And just as in the days of High Priest Mattathias Ben Yohanan made miracles and wonders (from the Hanukkah story), also in our time, He will save us from the darkest hours.”

‘Invoke heavenly mercy’

In many cases haredi news channels tend to ignore major news events, especially in crime, for educational reasons. However, they were not indifferent to the human tragedy of the bus carrying prison services cadets and the fires still blazing in some areas of the Carmel Forest.

Lithuanian haredi newspaper Yated Ne’eman dedicated nearly all its news pages to the Carmel fires, and both Hamodia and Hamevaser covered the tragedy extensively.

In addition to regular updates, various particularly Jewish points of view were presented, including a red headline over the evacuation of Torah scrolls from the religious kibbutz Nir Etzion, and the instructions of Torah scholars to perform prayer vigils and laments in the yeshivas to invoke heavenly mercy.


‘Fire is God punishing Israel for occupying Arab lands’

Many in the Arab world seem to be happy with the big fire that has been raging in northern Israel over the past few days.

Judging from comments of readers in response to the blaze in several leading Arab media outlets and websites, a majority believe that God is “punishing” Israel for occupying Arab lands and killing Palestinians, especially during Operation cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

Many Arabs also strongly condemned Egypt and Jordan for agreeing to help in extinguishing the blaze.

Others called on Israel’s enemies, particularly Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah to seize the opportunity and try to wipe Israel off the face of earth. Only a few readers and viewers expressed sympathy with Israel over the tragedy and the loss of many lives.

Following is a sample of the comments that appeared in the past few days in the Arab media:

“May Allah punish all Arabs who helped put down the fire. We pray to Allah that the fire will grow and spread to oil wells in the Arab world.”

“O’ Allah, burn them [Jews] before the Day of Judgement. O’ Allah, destroy them and all the enemies of Islam.”

“May Allah take revenge against them and displace them together with our corrupt [Arab] governments.”

“This is the right time for Iran. If one fire has caused panic in the Zionist entity, where are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Nasrallah? And where is Syria? One rocket could set thousands of fires.”

“Allah gives time, but never neglects. The Israelis are being punished for their deeds. We hope their end is nearing.”

“Sounds strange that Arabs are sending aid to our enemies. Allah is punishing the Jews by making with the fire. No military force or US veto can stop the fire.”

“Thank God for this new Holocaust and shame on the Egyptian authorities who rushed to save the Zionists while continuing to lay siege against our brothers in the Gaza Strip.”

“Thank God for burning the Jews the same way they burned our Muslim brothers in Palestine.”

“To Hizbullah, Hamas and all Arabs: this is a golden opportunity to get rid of Israel. The sea and fire are in front of the Jews and weapons are behind them.”

“This fire is the result of prayers from our prisoners held in occupation jails. The fire of Hell will be even stronger. May those Arabs who are helping the Jews burn with them in Hell.”

“Allahu Akbar! This is an effective weapon. We call on our Palestinian brothers to set fire to all forests.”

“How many prisoners did the wardens torture? Allah has answered the prayers of the oppressed.”


Volunteer rescue team members risk own lives to save others

When members of F.I.R.S.T, a volunteer search and rescue team, heard news on Thursday that brushfires were spreading rapidly throughout the forests of the Carmel mountain range they immediately rushed into action. Within hours, some 80 volunteers had assembled on the scene in full gear ready to offer their assistance.

They did so, like they always do, despite having only limited insurance.

“Our volunteers have basic insurance but it doesn’t cover operations like rappelling or scuba diving,” Avi Bachar, the head of F.I.R.S.T, said on Saturday. “Our guys are hooked; they don’t care if there’s insurance or not, they just want to rescue lives.

“But we’re looking for complementary insurance to provide them with peace of mind, should – heaven forbid – anything happen to them.”

F.I.R.S.T, which stands for First Israeli Search and Rescue Team, has some 500 volunteers spread out in units across the country, from the Golan Heights in the north to Ein Gedi and the Negev region in the south. Throughout the year, they rescue hundreds of stranded hikers from deep ravines or steep precipices. They also have a group of volunteer scuba divers, ready to assist in searching for bodies trapped underwater.

“Many hikers lose their way and we get them out,” Bachar said. “You hear about our work in the news all the time.”

In addition, the group also offers its help overseas. Its members were recently involved in searches in parts of the world like Sudan and Chad.

Back at the Carmel forest fire, F.I.R.S.T members helped in locating the body of a missing youth who had perished in the flames. But when it became apparent that the main effort was in containing the blaze and there were few people who needed rescuing, they were released by authorities. Still, Bachar said his organization was ready to offer help wherever and whenever needed.

While the members of F.I.R.S.T and others like them risk their lives to save others, thousands of volunteers from across Israel have volunteered since Thursday in less hazardous ways.

Tel Aviv resident Matan, 30, was with friends in the north on Thursday when he heard a call for help, asking volunteers with 4 x 4 trucks to come to Keren Ma’ara to provide logistic help for the rescue effort.

“When I got there I saw hundreds of people from all over Israel, many of whom had responded after seeing a message on Facebook. Immediately they asked for people able to take in displaced people or animals to sign up, and we did. The next day, me and many of the others drove around Israel collecting food donations to take to the operations sites to hand out to rescue personnel.”

When asked why he had volunteered, Matan scoffed at the question.

“What, it’s not a shame to lose the Carmel? I was born in Haifa, I’m a gardener, I love green and I love nature. It’s very sad, there’s nowhere else like the Carmel in Israel.”


Charlotte military on standby for Israel firefighting help

It’s said to be the worst forest fire in Israel’s history. Charlotte’s Air National Guard 145th Airlift Wing is waiting for the call and ready to help. The 145th Airlift Wing Lieutenant Colonel Rose Dunlap says our two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) could be loaded up onto the C-130 airplanes and “ready to go out of here in two hours.” Dunlap says, “The conversations have been held, but we have not received the official tasking.”

There are a total of eight MAFFS in the United States. “We are the only Air Guard east of the Mississippi to have them,” Dunlap says.

The MAFFS unit fits inside a C-130 without structural changes, enabling a quick departure. The C-130’s drop water or a retardant, from about 150 feet high, through two rear aircraft tubes. In less than five seconds, the load can be discharged over an area one-quarter of a mile long and 60 feet wide.

Dunlap says we do special training for these unique missions. Some 50 to 60 Guard members could be a part of this Israel mission, depending upon the needs of the theater commander. She says, “They could get there in two days, with a stop somewhere in between.”

The Israel fire fatality count is at least 41, as the fire blazes through the Carmel Forest near Haifa. Authorities say the likely cause for this fire is negligence.

Aid is coming from worldwide. Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Britain, Cyprus, Turkey and the United States are dropping water, sending equipment or manpower.


Palestinian firefighters battle Israel blazes

In a rare phone call on Saturday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for his support.

Meanwhile, the Israeli authorities say that it may take up to a week to put out the fire and a number of countries have been helping tackle the blaze.

“There are three Russian aircrafts that are working in the area,” said Israeli police spokesman, Mickey Rosenfeld.

“There is also a further six airplanes on the way to here, to Israel, from the international support and community, including France and the United States, Spain, Cyprus Italy and Hungary.

“All of this is in order to prevent the fires from spreading and to take control of the situation as quickly as possible.”

At least 10 foreign firefighting planes have been flown to Israel to help control the massive bushfires that killed about 40 prison guards.

The guards were on their way to evacuate the Damon Prison in the Carmel mountains in northern Israel when their bus became trapped in the inferno after a burning tree fell across the road.

Some died inside the vehicle while 14 bodies were found on the ground outside.

Some of the men were apparently young cadets and trainees on one of their first big jobs.

The fire is still raging across Mt Carmel, which sits above the northern coastal town of Haifa.


“Considerable improvement” in fighting Israel’s worst fire (1st Lead)

Israel’s worst ever bush fire raged on for a fourth consecutive day Sunday, but firefighting officials said the blaze was at its most stable since it broke out, while also warning against excessive optimism.

‘It is a lot better than Friday,’ Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Yoram Levy told the German Press Agency dpa.

‘There’s no full control yet, but a considerable improvement,’ he said.

Haifa District Police spokesman Yehuda Maman, meanwhile, confirmed to dpa that the fire started Thursday before noon when two youths from the Arab Druze village of Usafiya, in the midst of the Carmel Forest, were drinking coffee and smoking a water pipe outside their home.

‘It spread from there,’ he told dpa, adding he could give no further details of the investigation.

Levy said the fire did not get worse overnight when planes had to stop their activity due to darkness. They resumed their work at 6 am (0400 GMT) and 22 planes, including two Russian super tankers which can carry 44,000 litres of water, were already up in the air.

Their number was to grow to some 33 from around the world. An American super tanker which arrived Saturday night and can hold almost 80,000 litres had yet to take off, he said.

Three main focal points of the fire were left – near the Arab Druze village of Usafia, near the village of Nir Etzion and near a valley known as Little Switzerland.

The fire on Carmel hill, south of Haifa, has claimed 41 lives, devastated 50 square kilometres of parched, drought-stricken land, destroyed 5 million trees, and forced 17,000 people to flee their homes.

Officials said they hoped the aircraft, aided by 150 firetrucks on the ground, aided by the military, would be able to put out the worst of the fire before sunset Sunday.


PM continues efforts to secure fire-fighting equipment

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday continued his efforts to secure additional fire-fighting equipment from foreign nations, according to the PMO.

On Saturday, the prime minister spoke with Swiss President Doris Leuthard and requested fire-fighting planes from Switzerland.

Russia sent a detachment of high-ranking firefighter officials comprised of 24 personnel, including the deputy head of the Russian emergency situation branch, and two fire-fighting airplanes.

On Friday, Netanyahu spoke with the heads of state of Russia, Germany, Turkey, Britain, Norway, Finland, Belgium, the Ukraine and the United States.

He thanked his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for sending airplanes to help battle the Carmel brush-fire which had already claimed more than 40 lives.

“I really appreciate Turkey’s help, we will find a way to express our appreciation.” The prime minister’s comments came during a visit to the Carmel fire injured at Rambam hospital in Haifa.

He later added that he believed Turkey’s granting of aid to Israel “will serve as an opening to improve relations between Israel and Turkey.”

Netanyahu also spoke with Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin, and thanked him and his country for their assistance in the effort to control the deadly forest fire.

The prime minister also praised Israeli rescue workers, the IDF, the Israel Prisons Service, and hospitals around the country.

Alsoon Friday, Netyanyahu thanked his other international counterparts for planes, firefighters, supplies and fire retardant chemicals sent to assist efforts to control the huge forest fire.

In a press conference held after an emergency cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu mentioned Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who he called a “real friend,” as well as Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov

The international aid effort is being coordinated by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Foreign Ministry, Netanyahu said, adding that the option of bringing in more supplies from Canada and the US was being considered. He said that the cabinet had a national plan which would be implemented in the coming days.

Before the cabinet meeting, Lieberman told Israel Radio that the country was dealing with a disaster like we have never known before.” He charged that though a shortage of fire-fighting planes was common knowledge, “nothing here ever happens until disaster strikes.”

The foreign minister also referred to international aid which was being flown in to help Israeli efforts controlling the fire. Four Greek aircraft, four from France, three from Britain, two from Spain, two from Russia, two from Turkey, two from Cyprus, two from Bulgaria, one from Croatia and one from Azerbaijan were expected to arrive by noon, Lieberman said.

He said that the Germans had “made the initiative” to request the fire-fighting planes from Turkey, and that El Al was organizing for the transfer of a special fire-fighting liquid from France.


Greece sends more aid to Israel

Greece on Saturday evening sent a second dispatch of assistance to Israel to tackle a massive wildfire in Haifa that has claimed at least 42 lives.

A C-130 military helicopter departed from the Elefsina military airport carrying a team of 36 firefighters and equipment to help contain the blaze.

On Thursday, Greece dispatched five Canadair fire-fighting aircraft to Israel after a telephone call between Papandreou and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the day.

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman later called Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas to thank Greece, on behalf of the Israeli government, for its immediate response to Israel’s request for help in putting out the massive forest fire near Haifa, while he also praised the efficiency of the Greek forces.


As massive fire contained, Israeli political feuding begins over who to blame

As local forces, joined by international fire-fighting crews, approached extinguishing a wildfire which has raged through a forest in northern Israel since Thursday, accusations over who is to blame heated up on Sunday, with the Prime Minister’s Office claiming it inquired about purchasing fire-fighting aircraft four months ago.

After more than three days’ arduous battle, Israeli firefighting authority announced Sunday afternoon that it had fully contained the inferno, according to local news service Ynet.

The brushfire, considered the worst natural disaster in Israel’ s history, has claimed 42 lives and forced the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes. Approximately 50 square km of forest land and thousands of trees were consumed alongside severe damages to homes and infrastructure.

Much of the blaming for the poor handling of the fire is directed at Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose ministry is directly responsible for the country’s fire-fighting services.

The Ometz “good governance” watchdog called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Yishai due to his “ministerial responsibility for the catastrophe,” The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.

Yishai rebuffed the accusations against him, demanding on Friday to set up a governmental commission of inquiry to probe the fire, which required an emergency call for help to nearly a dozen countries which dispatched about 30 fire-fighting craft to Israel.

In the course of an emergency cabinet meeting convened on Friday, Yishai cited long years of neglect that gave way to the disaster, saying that in 2001, Ariel Sharon’s government voted to cancel aerial support for firefighting.

In an effort to ward off the harsh criticism, the Interior Ministry spokesman over the weekend began releasing to local media copies of letters issued by Yishai in the past year, in which he warned about the deficiencies of the fire-fighting services in terms of personnel and equipment, all of which were unheeded.

“I said months ago that we need to plan for an emergency situation. Nobody ever examined a scenario of such a fire,” Yishai was quoted as saying on Friday by the Post.

The interior minister claimed he had demanded to increase the budget allocated for the national fire-fighting services, eventually receiving less than 20 percent that what he had asked for.

“The procedure of ordering and budgeting is a long, bureaucratic process,” Yishai explained.

The Prime Minister’s Bureau in Jerusalem on Sunday turned the blame to the fire services. The bureau’s Director-General Eyal Gabai told Army Radio that the Netanyahu government has allocated a larger budget for purchasing fire-fighting equipment than any previous government.

Gabai added that the bureau turned to the fire services and rescue commissioner several months ago to inquire about fire- fighting aircraft, but received no answer.

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, who oversees the home front readiness, on Saturday laid doubt on Yishai’s performance, suggesting that the responsibility for the fire services be transferred to the Public Security Ministry.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Finance Ministry has begun assessing the damages caused by the inferno over the past three days. According to initial estimates, the damages may amount to a billion U.S. dollars, with damage to homes making up some 245 million dollars of that sum.

At the weekly cabinet session, held in a community not far from the scene of the blaze, a decision was made to immediately release 60 million shekels (about 16.3 million U.S. dollars) to residents of the communities stricken by the fires.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told cabinet members that the state will foot the bill for “any cost that the insurance won’t” in order to restore the region.

Netanyahu opened the session with a call to his ministers to come up with ways to repair the immense damage from the fires. After a minute’s silence in memory of the victims, he told ministers that he expected to see results, “and not bureaucracy,” in dealing with the rehabilitation of the area.


42 dead and 17,000 evacuated in Israel forest blaze

Israeli and international fire fighters are battling to extinguish a massive brush fire raging through the Carmel Mountain nature reserve south of Haifa which has caused 42 deaths and forced the evacuation of 17,000 people, leaving a charcoal trail of destroyed homes, farm property, businesses, vegetation and wildlife across an area of 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres).

The 42 dead were young police cadets from the Israeli Prisons Service Authority heading to the Damon jail to help evacuate the inmates when the bus in which they were traveling was trapped by the flames and engulfed in the conflagration.

Two kibbutz villages Beit Oren and Nir Etzion have been razed to the ground and their inhabitants left homeless.

Firefighters also battled flames approaching Haifa University and the suburban outskirts of Haifa.

The Carmel nature reserve is one of Israel’s principal forest recreation areas supporting a prosperous tourism industry for residents of Haifa, Israel’s third largest city and the country’s northern inhabitants.
The fierce wild fire broke out on Thursday morning, driven by hot gusty winds, and is still raging at six different locations.

It could take a week to put out the blaze, a senior official of Israel’s fire fighting services said over the weekend.

A series of smaller, unconnected brush fires have since broken out near Nazareth and other locations in Lower Galilee, which Police Commissioner David Cohen said may have been caused deliberately by arson.

At Israel’s request, international fire fighting teams and fire fighting planes and equipment were rushed to the disaster area from France, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, alongside two firefighting helicopters from Britain and one from Switzerland, and they have been fighting all weekend alongside the Israeli crews to bring the blaze under control.

Russia has sent in two Ilyushin-76 fire fighting planes each holding 42,000 litres of water, and the United States is dispatching an Evergreen supertanker with a 95,000 litre water load operated by a private American aviation company and a team of fire fighting experts to help douse the inferno.

Egypt and Jordan also offered their fire fighting manpower assistance.
Police fire investigators have detained two teenage brothers from the Druze village Isfiya, also threatened by the fire, whom they suspect negligently caused the Carmel blaze when they carelessly threw the embers of the narquila pipe they had been smoking in the backyard of their home into the nearby forest causing the sparks to leap onto the trees.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared the Carmel forest blaze a national human and ecological catastrophe, the worst in the country’s fire history.

Costs to the Israeli taxpayer for total damages including compensation are estimated at CAN$280 million.

An imminent report by the State Ombudsman, amidst mutual accusations between the relevant government authorities, blames Israeli governments for years of neglect and lack of budgets to boost manpower needs and to purchase advanced fire fighting and aerial water equipment to replace obsolete equipment in use.


PM Netanyahu Thanks Turkish PM Erdogan for Turkey’s Assistance in Fighting the Carmel Brushfire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke a short while ago with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and thanked him for the assistance in the efforts to control the Carmel brushfire: “We very much appreciate this mobilization and I am certain that it will be an opening toward improving relations between our two countries, Turkey and Israel.” Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that his Turkish counterpart had expressed his willingness to help and Turkey’s condolences, as well as his personal condolences, to the families of the casualties.


US supertanker joins air war on Israeli blaze

The world’s biggest firefighting plane on Sunday joined an international offensive against the worst forest fire in Israel’s history, dumping tons of water and chemicals on the flames.

Despite fires sweeping hills around the northern city of Haifa for a fourth day, hopes were high that the arrival in Israel of the chartered Boeing Supertanker would finally tip the balance.

The Israeli military said that the plane’s US crew had been joined by two Israeli air force pilots and a base commander, acting as liaison.

Police appealed to residents in the target area to stay indoors and shut their windows as the behemoth dropped its payload of 76,000 litres (20,500 gallons) of water and flame retardant.

Israeli fire service operations officer Boaz Rakia was cautiously upbeat.

“We wake up this morning to a slightly more optimistic morning,” he told army radio.

“It’s true that there are a number of sites where the fire is still active and we are concentrating our efforts there, but generally speaking if you look at the whole area of operations, it’s better, more optimistic.”

The fire has so far ravaged at least 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of land and five million trees in the pine-covered hills known locally as “little Switzerland.”

Meteorologists say rain is expected on Sunday night or Monday.

Israeli ministers switched the venue of their weekly cabinet meeting to the Haifa suburb of Tirat Hacarmel, where some residents have been evacuated from the path of the flames.

They opened the session with a minute’s silence for victims of the fire.

“We shall devote the cabinet meeting here in Tirat Hacarmel not just as an act of solidarity but also in order to make it clear that we will rehabilitate not only the people who have been injured but the homes and the forests that have been damaged as well,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a news conference in Haifa.

The fire, centred on the Carmel hills, south and east of the city, is the biggest inferno in Israel’s 62-year history. So far, it has taken 41 lives and forced more than 17,000 people to flee their homes.

Police have arrested two youths from the Druze Israeli village of Isfiya on suspicion of starting the fire “through negligence” by leaving behind burning embers after a family picnic.

More than 30 firefighting aircraft were flying sorties over the forest and scrub early on Sunday, Israeli media reported.

The military said aircraft from Greece, Britain, Turkey, Russia and France were already in action. Switzerland, the Netherlands, Azerbaijan and Romania were due fly in assistance on Sunday.

Bulgaria, Jordan and the Palestinians sent personnel to join ground operations.

France’s ambassador to Israel, Christophe Bigot, said his country had sent five of its 10 aerial firefighting units to join the international effort.

“We’ve organised a major assistance in the form of half of the French fleet of firefighters, who are are now working with the Turks, with the Greeks, with the Russians,” he told army radio, in English.

Bigot said the aircraft were not needed at home with the onset of fierce winter weather in northern Europe. “They were, of course out of a job, because it’s snow in France, there’s no fire to fight.”

Alexey Skantsev, liaison officer for a Russian team of 50 manning three aircraft, said his men had been on the scene for the past two days and would stay until the danger had passed.

“We’re going to be in Israel until the fires are under control,” he told AFP at the forward command centre on the edge of the fire zone, as planes roared overhead.

“It’s very hard to say when they will bring it under control, they are still working,” he said.

“We spoke with the local ops centre and, according to the information we received from them, the scale of the fire is now being reduced.”


Israel bids farewell to foreign firefighting teams

Farewell ceremonies were held Sunday in the Nevatim and the Ramat David airbases in tribute to the foreign firefighting teams from 10 different countries around the world, which helped Israel fight the Carmel wildfire.

Additional ceremonies are scheduled to be held at the Haifa and Tel Nof Air Force bases on Monday.

Bidding farewell. Air Force and foreign pilots

Meanwhile, the foreign pilots and planes are still on call but may not be operated Monday as the fire continues to die down. Firefighters will continue operations from the ground. Should there be no unexpected developments, the crews will leave Israel on Monday.

‘Excellent cooperation’. Working with foreign teams

The 192 foreign aid members were awarded IAF medals and each of the delegations was given a special diploma from Air Force Commander Major-General Ido Nechushtan.

Ramat David Airbase commander Colonel Ronen Simhi said, “There was excellent cooperation. A partnership that crossed boundaries, languages and cultures. All were focused on one task: Saving lives and the Carmel landscape.”

Dousing Carmel with chemicals

“In the Air Force we say friends are measured in a time of need. The State of Israel found itself in trouble, in a disaster. You were there and proved to be true friends,” said Nevatim Airbase commander Brigadier-General Eden Atias who took part in the supertanker sorties. “This is how we felt throughout the days we fought the fire together. I thank you on behalf of myself, the Air Force and the entire State of Israel. “

The aerial fire extinguishing effort reached a climax Sunday with the arrival of the American supertanker plane and is being coordinated out of a makeshift tent set up outside the Haifa University.

Russians unimpressed by mayhem

In an Air Force tent sat a Russian soldier observing his Israeli colleagues at work. The Russians were unimpressed with the Israeli mayhem. “They brought in their own satellite photos on a disc-on-key and were surprised to see us working on just one station,” an Israeli officer said.

The IAF command post is still preparing for the option of operating the foreign aircrafts on Monday mainly to cool down the burned areas.

The IAF officers said that only when a final word is given that the fire died down and will not return will they dismantle the command post and send the foreign planes back home. “The planes won out here,” one officer said. “Without them we’d be in an entirely different place right now.”


U.S. Fire Suppression Experts and Supplies Arrive in Israel

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) arrived in Haifa, Israel on December 5 to help combat the wildfires that began on December 2 in Northern Israel. In addition, the United States transported nearly 70 metric tons (MT) of fire suppressant and 3,800 gallons of fire retardant concentrate to Israel on December 5.

“We are relieved to learn from the government of Israel that the fires are contained and commend them for leading and coordinating an extraordinary international effort to suppress the deadly wildfires,” said Nancy Lindborg, USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. “The United States immediately mobilized when Israel needed our firefighting assistance, and we will continue to stand by our friends as they begin to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of the fires.”

The USAID DART, which includes a National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team with fire management experts from the U.S. Forest Service, is currently working alongside their Israeli counterparts at the command center at Haifa University to offer technical expertise and discuss additional ways the United States might assist.

On December 5, a USAID cargo flight, carrying approximately 27 metric tons (MT) of Fire-Trol retardant and 22 MT of Fire-Trol fire foam, landed in Israel. The USAID-charted aircraft, which originated in Italy, also transported 20 MT of Italian-donated fire foam to Israel. In addition, one U.S. C-130 aircraft from U.S. European Command (EUCOM) delivered 3,800 gallons of fire retardant concentrate to Israel.

On December 4, two U.S. C-130 aircraft from EUCOM delivered a total of 20 short tons of fire retardant to Israel.

The United States stands prepared to provide additional assistance to support the Government of Israel if needed.


See also earlier updates of the Israel wildfire emergency:

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