At least 11 countries provide assistance for fatal fire in Israel

(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.

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. Google+

26 thoughts on “At least 11 countries provide assistance for fatal fire in Israel”

  1. Evergreen International Airlines is currently mobilizing its 747 Supertanker for assistance in this disaster. We should be ready to operate in country by Sunday.

  2. Back in the 70’s/80’s Israel was made an offer to buy the Canadair/Bombardier CL-215 but they turned it down. Do you have any additional background on that?


  3. Wasn’t that when they were having some problems with the plane? I think it was with the doors. We had one that came down to the Mendocino for a demonstration and one of the doors jammed. They had to land with the door open. I think that was in ’82

  4. The full story stated with the Mayor of NY and FDNY – in part, the original news story read “the fire retardant Israel needs is not one that the FDNY uses in New York, and (Mayor Bloomberg) had the FDNY reach out to the United States Forestry Service, which does use Fire Troll 931 to fight forest fires.”

    I know you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but The US Forest Service quit using Fire Trol chemicals in about 2004, but does allow for the use of whatever Fire Trol chemicals remained in inventory. This looks like a way for the USFS to get a lot of credit for being a great, caring agency while getting rid of inventory that it doesn’t want.

    A US company with a long record of working with the USFS (and who employs 3 ex senior USFS retirees including one from the USFS lab and who’s combined career with the USFS exceeds 100 years) came up with a patent for a “safe” gum thickened retardant and the USFS changed the spec to be able to use the “safe” retardant. Coincidentally, by changing the specification for the retardant, which matched the new patented retardant, the USFS’s action resulted in Fire Trol, who had 75% of the US retardant market, being totally shut out of the US market because it couldn’t meet the specification and is no longer on the US Forest Service Qualified Product List.

    With this old inventory gone, the new guys will have to replace all 45 tons of it.

  5. I think that with the response from Greece,Spain, Croatia and Turkey, It will prove once again that The CL-415 is a one of a kind Aircraft and no other Water boomer will campair to its ability.

    Israel needs this Aircraft in that line up.

  6. Here is the answer to the Feds eliminating fixed-wing aircraft by 2012. As death and destruction occurs on or near “OUR” National grass and forest lands just call-in the International aerial fire community. Too Much Too Late is better than nothing??? What ever happened to “Hit Them Hard and Keep Them Small.” My thoughts are with the people of Israel.

  7. Add USA government to list of countries above. US Air National Guard is dispatching MAFFS-equipped C-130 Hercules aircraft from Charlotte NC base today. I have this from contact who is stationed there.

    1. Thanks Doug. We have an updated article about the fires in Israel HERE, which includes some details about the deployment of the U.S. National Guard C-130 MAFFS air tankers.

      1. I just received a report from my contact at the Air National Guard Base in Charlotte, NC. They are sending out from Charlotte two (2) of the MAFFS C-130 aircraft so there are probably more than the three in total reported above being deployed.

        1. You are right, Doug. The National Guard tells us that at least three Air National Guard units will send two MAFFS C-130’s each.

  8. not necessarily for posting: you apparently are prophetic: some of your updates in this page are dated Dec. 6!

    1. Hmmm. The date is added automatically. But from my end I don’t see any unusual dates. We’ll keep an eye on it.

  9. Yesterday one of 6 Cro CL-415 serial 866 departed from airforce base Zemunik near Zadar with double crew, there are young but very expirience in aerial firefighting, we have also 6 AT802 Firebosses and if the Israeli govt was asked we wil send all 12 aircrafts, besides we hope thad international help will endd fire, best regards and some picts..

  10. update from Israel radio Reshet Bet:
    The operation was delayed a few hours due to incompatibility between the a/c’s inches standard pipes and the metric standard in Israel. Takeoff should be about now, 10:30 Israel time (GMT + 2).

        1. This whole comment (“The operation was delayed…”) refers only to the Evergreen supertanker. All the other a/c were active from dawn to sunset.

  11. Watching live broadcasts from all 3 Israeli TV news channels: Supertanker completed 2 “bombings” and is returning to Ben-Gurion airport for “rearming”. “Positions attacked” were smoldering hot spots near urban areas. Lighter a/c loitered out at sea till ST left arena. Since beginning of foreign aid, Israeli Air-Force is coordinating the ATC in the area; an IAF pilot is in every foreign a/c to liaison with ATC, ground forces, and the central command post.

  12. 20 firefighters and 3 fire trucks from the The Palestinian Authority (not exactly an ally of Israel) arrived today to help out in extinguishing the fire. A good sign for future relations.
    Arsons throughout the country continue, all extinguished thus far. In one case yesterday, 2 horsebacked men were seen throwing molotov cocktails in a forest; the forest wardens ran to put the fire out and called the police who didn’t catch the perpetrators.

  13. The fire in Israel has probably been defeated, almost all evacuated areas have been opened (hundreds have no where to return to, most of them can probably repair their houses). Firefighters still stamping out small outbreaks. If the night passes without resurgence of fires, all is well. Recovery will be long.
    TV channel 10 reported that the Supertanker is apparently not certified for night missions (hopefully none will be needed).
    Today the ATC had to coordinate 26 aircraft that performed some 300 sorties during 10 hours of sunlight.
    Again, thanks to all who helped.

  14. In my non-professional opinion, based only on what I saw on TV, the supertanker was superfluous in this case: the terrain is hilly, the endangered forest area is Israel-sized (6×6 km) so the fire does not have a long, linear front, and there are adjacent populated areas which were not evacuated (danger from the extinguishing chemicals). When the ST was in the arena (almost an hour), all other a/c were inactive. During this period they could have made several, more focused bombings. It might have been effective in the first 2 days, especially if it could have flown at night (no other a/c could, but it’s not sure that even the ST can).

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