Israeli fires: US aircraft respond, 2 suspects arrested

(Scroll to the bottom to see updates on this article.)

Flames Israel nightTwo suspects have been arrested and accused of negligence in starting the large fire in the Carmel area of Israel that has burned over 9,800 acres and killed about 41 people. Authorities did not specify exactly how the fire started or elaborate on the “negligence”.

Most of the fatalities occurred when a bus load of prison system employees on the way to evacuate a prison became entrapped when a highway was blocked by a fallen tree. The bus and another vehicle behind it were engulfed in flames.

The fires have forced about 17,000 to evacuate their homes, as well as three jails, a university, and a hospital.

As the flames are blackening about half of Israel’s national forest, the criticism mounts of the inadequate state of the country’s firefighting capacity. There have been calls for resignations and investigations.

At least 12 countries are sending aid to Israel to help combat the fires, which we detailed HERE. The Israli Air Force is expecting at least 25 firefighting aircraft, including the American 747 Supertanker, Air Tanker 979, owned by Evergreen. It is expected to land at Ben Gurion International Airport at 4:11 MT today. After crew rest, the 747 may be available for operations on Sunday, if Evergreen’s schedule holds up.

The United States is sending three at least six 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.;  the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard in Port Hueneme, Calif.; and the 302nd Airlift Wing Air Force Reserve unit at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. Two other military planes are ferrying firefighting supplies to Israel.

The United States is also sending Custer’s National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) Team, 45 metric tons of Fire-Trol fire retardant and 12,000 liters of WD881 Class A foam. The fire retardant is being flown to Israel by U.S. military C-130’s and aircraft chartered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Here is a map of the fire in the Carmel forest area of Israel.

FirefighterCloseCalls has some details about one of the firefighter fatalities:


The Secret List

The remains of a 16 year-old teenage volunteer Firefighter who was killed in the Carmel forest fire in Israel were identified this morning (Saturday). Elad Riven, from Haifa, killed on Thursday, was a volunteer with a scout group made of students who work with the regions firefighting service. Riven was in the northern city of Afula when his mother received a phone call to alert Riven to respond to the wildfire. He left and arrived on the scene to assist the Firefighters who were working to evacuate residents of the area.

Most of the 42 victims whose lives have been claimed in the devastating wildfire perished on Thursday when a bus brought in to evacuate people got caught in the fire. The bus was carrying members of a Prison Service guards’ course who were heading to the Damon jail in order to help evacuate inmates.

On Friday, the remains of a Police Commander who was killed while on his way to rescue residents were identified. Lior Boker, age 57, was head of police operations for Israel’s northern region. Police had gathered a search party for Boker, who was thought to be missing, on Thursday. He apparently was caught in the fire while trying to identify the location of the bus of prison service guard students. As always, our condolences to all affected.


UPDATE @ 1:12 p.m. MT, December 4

The National Interagency Fire Center is reporting that they are filling an order to send three Type 1 hand crews to the fires in Israel. They will be a mix of hotshots and smokejumpers, and are requested to be in Tel Aviv, Israel Monday at 2:00 p.m. local time.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

11 thoughts on “Israeli fires: US aircraft respond, 2 suspects arrested”

  1. You order on what you have “going” (see) and what you expect (guess)is going to happen. If you over order (within reason) and the fire goes out your boss may make a slight comment about cost. If you under-order,and things really get out of hand people (side-line critics) remember that forever.

    1. Right on, Johnny!

      It’s so easy to view life and forest fires with perfect 20-20 hindsight, until you’ve been the one who had to make the decision to spend mega-bucks based on a best case/worst case scenario.

      Those of us who have been involved on fire management on the ground at the local, State and National levels understand that conditions change rapidly on wildfires, but you make the best decision the timeframes allow, and move ahead.

  2. Large govermental agencies are at times not the most efficient in the world. The resources were requested and sent in good faith, to respond to an emergency.

    It happens every day all across this country and around the world on a local level. Events start to go downhill and additional resources are sent to assist in good faith. Be it a back up police unit, EMS for suspected heart pain, a second alarm for a small fire that looks like it might get larger or a military air tanker when the contractors are not available. Yes it cost someone money, and they may not be needed but it’s done anyway.

    Let’s not forget a commerical 747 tanker made the trip.

    I’m happy to see that the military is ready for these events.

  3. What a joke the 302nd MAFFS Mission is. OK boys we are in the Azores let’s go home. We can’t even put out our own fires in Colorado.

    1. Joe-

      I don’t understand your criticism of the 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. They responded to the fire as ordered but their mission was canceled before they arrived in Israel, because the fire was under control. This happens all the time to wildland firefighters and air tankers.

      The 302nd got farther than another unit that is probably 2,000 miles closer to Israel.

      We reported here about the MAFFS air tankers being canceled:

      1. What do you mean you do not understand my criticism? These Air Tankers are not even used in the States that they are from because of competing contractors and costs involved so we send them half way around the world for free and they do not get their on time due to the distance involved. What is that called? Waste of U.S. dollars that is what it is called. The U.S. needs to get out of the Fire Tanker Business and let the Ground Forces and the Civilian Sector take care of it.

  4. “…and possibly one or two from an Air Force Reserve unit in Colorado.”

    Not possibly. We sent two planes from the 302nd Airlift Wing. We the only Air Force Reserve unit with MAFFS capability. Something we are glad to do in order to help those in need!

    1. In the early 90’s I was sent to that area of Isreal to train and assist them in prescribed fire. The area that appears on the map is largely a fuel model 4 or as we used to say fuel type 14. This is interspersed with planted pine (Alepo) pole stands on the average of 4-6″ DBH. Extremely rocky and difficult handline country, even though Isreal has a lot of heavy line building capability they do understand that doing soil damage can be longer lasting than fire damage. Having limited area, they value their forests to a much higher extent than we do.

  5. Thanks from Israel to all those helping us. Israel has helped others in areas of its expertise (medicine, rescue from collapsed buildings, identification of dead, e.g. in Haiti and Turkey earthquakes, tsunami in Thailand). We’re on one small fragile planet and have to help one another.
    A topic not covered by foreign media: simultaneous with efforts to extinguish the big fire, there were tens of arson in other forests throughout the country; these were extinguished by the small contingents of firefighters not recruited to the main fire. From past cases, it is assumed that these were committed by those who would rather burn the country than live in it peacefully with Israel.


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