Israel — 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.