(Scroll to the bottom to see the latest updates.)
Many countries are either providing firefighting assistance or have offered assistance to Israel as the country attempts to suppress the 20,000 dunham (4,294 acre) wildfire that has killed approximately 50 people, according to The Yeshiva World News. (Another report puts the size at 7,000 acres.)
A bus that was carrying prison service trainees to help evacuate a prison became trapped on a highway when a fallen tree blocked its path. About 40 people on the bus and in a car that was traveling with them were killed. Two firefighters and a policeman were among the dead.
As of 8:10 ET on Friday, The Yeshiva World News reports that a total of 10 aircraft, many from foreign countries, are currently working on the fire, including at least four Canadair CL-215 or CL-415 air tankers and some single engine air tankers.
The Israeli Air Force is preparing its bases around the country to host a total of 24 international aircraft which will assist in the firefighting effort with air tankers, helicopters, supplies, equipment, and firefighters. Israel’s Foreign Ministry has asked Bulgaria, Croatia, Spain, France, and Romania to send firefighting aircraft which could operate at night. The expected international assistance includes:
- Turkey: has agreed to send two firefighting aircraft, despite the difficult diplomatic crisis between the two countries
- Cyprus: two firefighting aircraft and one police helicopter
- Greece: four air tankers
- France: four firefighting aircraft
- Australia: offered assistance.
- Bulgaria: 92 firefighters and two firefighting aircraft.
- Britain: three firefighting aircraft
- Spain: two firefighting aircraft
- Russia: two firefighting aircraft
- Croatia: one firefighting aircraft
- Azerbaijan: one firefighting aircraft
- Romania: firefighting aircraft
Israel asked the U.S. Government to send firefighting aircraft and equipment from nearby American bases. President Obama said on Thursday that the government is looking into what kinds of aid it could provide, saying:
A short while ago, our ambassador in Tel Aviv, Jim Cunningham, issued a disaster declaration, which has launched an effort across the U.S. government to identify the firefighting assistance we have available and provide it to Israel as quickly as possible. Of course, that’s what friends do for each other.
We talked with Ken Frederick at the National Interagency Fire Center who told us that there are no U.S. firefighting resources being mobilized, and that the only assistance that he expects to be provided would be “disaster assistance”. [See the update below.]
Yoram Levi, a spokesman for Israel’s fire and rescue service said, “We don’t have big aircraft that can carry a large amount of water.”
Israel has only 1,500 firefighters, a number widely accepted as woefully inadequate for a country of 7.6 million people. Some firefighters there have complained of having old and faulty equipment. A columnist for Maariv, Ben Caspit, wrote that it is surprising that a high-tech country like Israel is also the country “whose fire-trucks date back to the previous century, and a country that therefore finds itself caught, standing before the flames, with its pants down”.
Speaking to reporters at an Air Force base on Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters:
We were not prepared for such a wildfire. It was never taken into account, by the professionals or authorities supervising them. There is a problem here, but first we have to take care of this fire.”
Two people that were attempting to start a new fire in the Carmel forest were spotted by an unmanned aerial aircraft and were arrested. Meanwhile, fire investigators have found the single point of origin of the large fire and expect to announce the fire’s cause on Saturday.
UPDATE @ 1:00 MT, December 3:
Evergreen’s 747 Supertanker is being deployed to Israel.
UPDATE @ 1:45 MT, December 3:
Ken Frederick at the National Interagency Fire Center told Wildfire Today that a National Interagency Management Team, a NIMO team, is being dispatched to provide technical assistance to Israel. We don’t know yet which team it will be. We found out it will be Custer’s NIMO team.
UPDATE @ 2:15 MT, December 3
It turns out that the U.S. is also sending some fire retardant and Class A foam to Israel, in addition to the NIMO team. The U.S. Office for International Development just issued this press release:
USAID Rushes Firefighting Assistance to Israel
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is immediately deploying a team of firefighting experts and airlifting much-needed firefighting supplies to Israel to assist in fighting the raging wildfires in the Carmel Mountains outside of Haifa, Israel.
“We offer our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones in this fire, and we will stand by the people of Israel in their time of need,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “USAID is leading an aggressive response. We are delivering much-needed fire retardant and we have immediately deployed firefighting and disaster management experts to Israel.”
Through its partnership with the U.S. Forest Service’s Disaster Assistance Support Program, USAID is deploying a team of experts to join their Israeli counterparts to help combat the fires. In addition, USAID is sending 45 metric tons of Fire-Trol fire retardant and 12,000 liters of WD881 Class A foam, valuable tools in the suppression of wildland fires.
The Unites States stands prepared to provide additional assistance should it be necessary.
Below is a NASA satellite photo of smoke from the fires, taken December 3, 2010 at 10:09 p.m. local time.
The Yeshiva World reports at 2:47 p.m EST:
The Carmel fire is spreading in the direction of Haifa University. Firefighters said that strong winds were driving the fire towards the campus at high speeds. Firefighters were on the scene.
UPDATE @ 12:05 MT, December 4
The United States is sending three C-130 aircraft with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS) from Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne, Wyoming; 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard in Charlotte, N.C.; and the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard in Port Hueneme, Calif.
We have posted a new article on the fires HERE. It includes a map showing the location of the fire.