Israel — Interior Minster Eli Yishai stood at the center of the State Comptroller report on the deterioration and lack of preparedness of Israel’s firefighting and emergency aid services issued on Wednesday.
In the report, released ahead of its scheduled time due to the devastating Carmel forest fire in which 42 people were killed and more than 17,000 people were evacuated from their homes, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss defined the situation of the fire department as a continuous and serious failure, which could destroy the lives and property of many people.
The report places the bulk of the blame on Yishai, as well as Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, responsible for the national emergency services, and states that they must immediately reverse the neglect.
The report determined that the preparedness level of the firefighting services has deteriorated since the Second Lebanon War and found serious shortcomings in the organizational preparedness of the firefighting services and overall shortfalls in human resources, vehicles, fire stations and equipment. The report investigated to see if the systems failures that were observed in the wake of the war had been corrected.
“Not only does the firefighting service, which was in a dire state in the past, has not been improved since the Second Lebanon War after our comments in the report on the home front, but its condition even worsened to the threat of complete collapse during an emergency, which could essentially harm the entire national emergency services, and could bring to loss of life and property and harm the strength of the home front,” the report stated.
The previous report revealed a lack of resources at the disposal of the national commander of firefighting services and the absence of a mission’s team that can allocate forces.
It should be noted that although the previous government headed by Ehud Olmert decided in 2008 to establish a national firefighting and emergency aid authority, there has been no change in the organization structure of the services, and the Interior Ministry has not formulated a law that would implement these changes.
Lindenstrauss in the report stated that the firefighting service issued several warnings to the then Interior Minister Meir Shitrit, who was responsible for the firefighting services and before Yishai after he took office, but nothing changed in practice.
The comptroller has not yet decided if he himself will investigate in detail the Carmel fire incident. It would seem that he is waiting to see if the Committee for the Improvement of Government Services will recommend a national inquiry into the events of the fire in the wake of this report, which will also be presented to the committee.