Around noon on Sunday 2 July 1995, a fire started in the foothills some 15 km west of Jerusalem near the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem highway. The cause appears to have been negligence. Foehn conditions with very low relative humidity, high surface temperatures and strong winds, as well as steep terrain, caused high rates of spread and heavy spotting across roads and other fire breaks. Within a short time the fire was out of control and threatening buildings. In the next few hours some six kibbutzim and moshavim (rural settlements) had to be evacuated. By evening (19:00) the fire was under control. Some 30 houses were partly or completely destroyed, but luckily there were no deaths, and only 29 people were injured by smoke inhalation. First unofficial estimates of burnt area (2000 ha) make it the largest and most destructive forest fire in the history of the state. The forest area destroyed included both natural (Mediterranean oak maquis) and planted (conifer) forests. A significant fraction of the latter were planted through donations from both Israel and abroad.
Israel’s Forest Department has set as a goal the reforestation of the burnt area within a time period of four years. The area includes both sides of a drainage area, through which runs the major intercity highway leading to Israel’s capital and as such is of great scenic and historic value. For this reason, a GIS Forest Mapping project, already in progress, will be enlisted to aid in the planning process.
From: John Woodcock Address: Land Development Authority Forest Department, Research and Development P.O.Box 45 IL – Kiryat-Hayim 26103