Forest Fire in Israel

ForestFire in Israel

10 -12 April 2005


Court Extends the Remand of Forest Fire Suspects
12 April 2005

( The Haifa Magistrate’s Court today extended the remand of two Arab men, suspects believed responsible through negligence for Friday’s Camel area forest fire in Haifa. The blaze resulted in widespread destruction to the area forest. The court extended their remand for seven days.

The suspects apparently were using welding equipment in an effort to steal an electric tower and other metal from the area. Their negligence is believed to have led to the blaze which took over 24 hours to bring under control.

Source: Israel National News 


Three Arabs Arrested in Haifa For Forest Fire
12 April 2005

( Haifa Police have arrested three Arab residents of Haifa, including a 16-year-old, on suspicion that they are responsible for the large fire that began in the Carmel Park Friday.

Apparently, the three attempted to steal metal from the park, including an electricity tower, leading to the fire. Police have not ruled out nationalist motives, though.

2,000 dunams of protected forest have been burned by the fire. Another fire has broken out near the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Haifa as well.

Other fires have broken out throughout the country due to the “Sharav” heat-wave conditions. 250 dunams of banana groves were burned near Kibbutz Yehiam in the Galil and 50 dunams of protected forest were burned on MountGamal.

Source: Israel National News 


Firemen prepare for next ‘Sharav’
David Rudge, THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 10, 2005

Firefighters are being put on full alert over the next few days in light of the forecast for “Sharav” (heatwave) conditions following fires that swept several places particularly in the North over the weekend.

Inquiries are continuing into the cause of the worst blaze that destroyed 2,000 dunams of natural brush and woodland on the Mount Carmel National Park and, at one stage, threatened the University of Haifa, as well as homes in the city’s exclusive Dania housing district and the Hai Bar wildlife sanctuary.

“The main line of inquiry is focusing on the possibility of arson because there were three outbreaks in different places in a relatively short space of time of one another,” said Haifa district Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Hezi Levi.

Arson was also suspected in the case of three previous major fires on Mount Carmel in 1989, as well as 1998 and 1999 but no one was ever arrested and charged in connection with the incidents.

Levi recalled that in the 1998 blaze, which was centered around Kibbutz Nir Etzion and the artists village, Ein Hod, cars were spotted leaving an area where several fires broke out simultaneously but the suspected arsonists were never caught.

He said that the extent of the damage in the latest blaze would make it very difficult for fire investigators to pinpoint the cause and precise location because any evidence would probably have been destroyed.

One seat of the fire, which broke out around 10.30 am Friday, was near Kibbutz Beit Oren on the western slopes of the mountain. The other occurred shortly afterwards on the eastern side near old quarry workings above Nesher, while the third happened several hours later and over one kilometer away between Dania and the Soroka housing district.

One of the worst-hit areas in the blaze was the part of the national park known as “Little Switzerland,” which was completely destroyed in the 1989 fire that destroyed almost 4,000 dunams of natural woodland and planted forest.

As in the previous case, the trees that were destroyed were mainly naturally-grown Jerusalem Pine, indigenous oaks, Carobs and Terebinth.

Ya’acov Arak, the Jewish National Fund’s chief forester for the Carmel district, said many of the broad leaf varieties had almost reached the size they were previously, although the pine trees were still only half-grown in comparison before they were destroyed in the latest fire.

“The needle-leaf varieties, such as the Jerusalem Pine, are regenerated by their seeds, while the oaks and the other broad-leaf trees grow again from the roots even if the trunk is destroyed or, in this case, burned down,” said Arak.

“In the case of the pines the regeneration process takes longer and it could be between 30-50 years before the new trees reach the same size as those that were destroyed and 20-30 years in the case of the broad-leaf trees.”

Arak noted that there had not been any major fires in the past 20 years in planted forests because care was taken from the outset to create fire-breaks and tracks were laid to make vehicular access easier. Trees were also pruned and thinned, where necessary, to minimize the spread of flames in the event of fires, he said.

In the case of natural growth, it was more problematic unless decisions were taken to create gaps between the trees that would act as fire breaks, access tracks were laid and trees thinned out to prevent overcrowding and the future risks from fires.

Many conservationists have been opposed to taking such steps because it would mean interfering with the natural environment, although discussions are continuing between proponents of the two opposing theories.

None of the animals in the Hai Bar sanctuary were hurt with the exception of a fledgling Vulture, which apparently died of asphyxiation. The animals were saved by the dedicated and determined efforts of Nature Reserve and Parks Authority (NRPA) wardens who risked their own lives to move them from one place to another in accordance with the changing direction of the wind and flames.

The sanctuary itself was established to help reintroduce to Israel several species of animals, including deer, wild sheep and vultures, that were mentioned in the bible as being indigenous to the region.

The blaze on the Carmel and in other parts of the country on Friday was exacerbated by the hot, dry weather and strong winds with gust of 80-100 kph. Similar conditions are expected from Monday afternoon through to Wednesday.

“We will be going on Sharav alert and coordinating with all the relevant bodies including MDA, the police, the JNF and NRPA, as well as putting light planes loaded with fire retarding chemicals on standby in case of outbreaks,” said Levi.

Haifa mayor Yona Yahav charged that the weekend blaze on Mount Carmel could have been tackled more efficiently and extinguished earlier had some of the flame retarding material been stored at the Haifa bayside airport instead of pilots having to fly to the Megiddo airstrip.

Yahav called on the Civil Airports Authority to ensure that there would be stocks kept at the Haifa airport in thefuture.

Source: The Jerusalem Post 


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