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:

Continue reading “Israeli fires: US aircraft respond, 2 suspects arrested”

At least 11 countries provide assistance for fatal fire in Israel

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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:
Continue reading “At least 11 countries provide assistance for fatal fire in Israel”

Wildfire in Israel kills 40

wildfire in israel
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men observe the fire that killed at least 40 people in Israel on Thursday.

UPDATED @ 4:00 p.m. MT, December 2, 2010

A fire in Israel has killed about 40 people.

From Reuters:

A massive brushfire, the worst in Israel’s history, raged unchecked for more than eight hours Thursday, burning thousands of acres of land, forcing villages to evacuate, and killing up to 40 people when their bus was engulfed in flames. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the blaze as “a catastrophe, the likes of which we have not yet known”.

He appealed to Russia, Cyprus, Greece and Italy for help in putting out the fire, which began on the slopes of the Carmel hill, southeast of Israel’s port city of Haifa, and rapidly spread.

Cyprus and Greece agreed to dispatch firefighting helicopters.

Some nine hours after the blaze was estimated to have begun exhausted firefighters, those from Haifa reinforced by teams from all over Israel, and by soldiers, were still struggling to bring it under control, but without success.

“We’ve lost control of the fire,” a spokesman for Haifa’s firefighting services was quoted as saying.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said it was impossible to say when the fire could be brought under control. However, firefighters were speculated that as the fire spread west a major road linking Haifa with Tel Aviv to the south could act as a natural firebreak, or, failing that, the sea would.

At least 22 people were confirmed dead, but other accounts put the number as high as 40.

The fatalities were prison guards who had been drafted to help evacuate the 500 prisoners from a jail in the path of the flames. Their bus, with 50 people on board, was trapped by a falling tree and 40 of them burned to death. The others were injured.

The fire had been far from the road when the bus first set off, but spread about 1,500 metres in less than three minutes.

This video is not in English, but the pictures tell much of the story.

Thanks Joe, Pierre, Brian, & Dick