Following spate of blazes, Police go on fire watch

Following spate of blazes, Police go on fire watch

20 July 2011

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Israel — The Israel Police launched a fire prevention watch program on Monday following a number of major blazes that broke out across the country in recent days.

Noting recent blazes in Jerusalem and Ein Tina forest, the police’s head of Operations Branch, Cmdr. Nissim Mor, ordered all police districts to draw up plans to prevent fires.The 50-year-old Bet Zayit resident accused of starting the Jerusalem forest fire when he burned trash in his courtyard was released to house arrest on Tuesday, two days after the blaze he allegedly started burned more than 150 acres in the forest near Yad Vashem.

District planners have also been instructed to map out sensitive areas in which fires can begin, and to hold intelligence- based evaluations on threats of arson.

Police will also begin holding fire lookouts and mobilizing officers to set up ambushes for arsonists.

Aerial patrols by police helicopters and light aircraft will also be increased as part of efforts to prevent arson.

Mor stressed that should a major fire break out, the area affected must be isolated, populations evacuated, and roads must be cleared for emergency response teams.

“In major blazes, a control center will be set up under the command of police that will house representatives of all emergency forces. The general public will receive continuous updates and instructions,” Mor said.On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commended the firefighters for averting tragedy, especially at Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem employees used the museum’s own firefighting equipment to battle the blaze on the western perimeter of its campus, keeping it from entering the area.

“The first goal is to save lives; the second is to save Israel’s heritage,” Netanyahu said. “People are asked what they would take with them if their home goes up in flames, and the first answer is usually a photo album. Yad Vashem is the photo album of the Jewish People, and we must watch over it.”

Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Lt. Asaf Abras urged the public to avoid starting any kind of fire during hot days, including trash burning, bonfires or otherwise.

“If they must have a fire, it’s important to make sure it’s in an open area, away from residential buildings or dry brush, which can catch fire easily,” he said on Tuesday.

Abras also stressed that it is important to have enough water – or other means of extinguishing the fire – close at hand in case it gets out of control, as it did with the Bet Zayit man.

“This was a very large area that burned, and it’s going to take 30 years – or possibly more – for the area to recover,” he said.

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