Carmel fire at sunset, as seen through the lens of a police photographer
Israel’s worst forest and brush fire in modern history continues to rage on and at this writing, “is completely out of control by our combined fire fighting units” according to Haifa Fire Department spokesman Hezi Levi. Speaking to reporters of Israel’s Channel 2 TV station, Levi added that “this is the worst fire disaster since the founding of the State of Israel. It’s not going to take hours to extinguish but days.” He said that all of the 200 tons of fire extinguishing chemicals held in reserve has been used up and more will have to be brought in from abroad.
Besides the resort community and kibbutz at Beit Oren, the artist colony at Ein Hod is also under serious threat. Ein Hod, and neighboring Arab village Ein Hud, have experienced fires in the past with one that occurred back in 2007, destroying part of the artist village.As of 10 a.m. Friday morning, as much as 30,000 dunam (7,500 acres) of land has been scorched, and the community of Tirat Hacarmel is now under threat from a new wildfire outbreak. total death count so far is 41.
“Water is the basis for putting out the fire, and we call upon the Keren Kayemet organization (Jewish National Fund) to provide enough water needed to help extinguish the blaze,” Levi was quoted as saying.
Earlier in the day, as mentioned in a previous article, 40 student wardens in the Israeli Prison System were burned to death when the bus they were riding in caught fire while en route to a prison to help evacuate the inmates from this fire.
So far, most of them have been positively identified. Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres have issued urgent appeals to countries in the region to come to Israel’s aid and send fire fighting equipment and chemicals.
Some of these countries include Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and even Russia. Firefighting aircraft carrying much needed equipment and chemicals have already arrived from Greece, and a 747 jumbo cargo plane from the USA is now on its way to Israel with equipment and chemicals.
Haifa University, located on in the Carmel forest, was ordered to be evacuated earlier in the day on Thursday.
Smoke from Carmel wildfire as seen from neighboring Haifa
The cause of the fire is now thought to have originated by unauthorized trash burning in an industrial zone located in the Arab town of Osafiya , located about 5 km from Beit Oran, where some of the worst fires are still burning. Strong east winds are adding “fuel to the fire” and helping to push the fire lines westward towards the sea; according to firefighting spokesmen.
The excessively dry brush and forest areas on the Carmel remind many of other fires which have occurred recently in the region, including one that occurred just a few weeks ago on the Golan Heights and burned more than 13,000 dunam (4,500 acres) of a nature reserve. That fire was caused by a woman burning her excrement after she went to the toilet while on a hiking tour there.
The seriousness of these fires is very similar to those which have occurred in neighboring Greece in August of 2009; and in various parts of the US State of California, especially in the vicinity of Los Angeles and San Diego including a 500 acre brush fire along the US and Mexico border in September 2010.
So far, the Carmel fire has burned more than 9,000 dunam (2,250 acres). “Several thousand more” are estimated to go up in smoke before the fire is finally extinguished or simply left to burn itself out. From an environmental standpoint, the loss of forests and wildlife on the Carmel by this fire will be catastrophic, to say the least.
This includes large numbers of wild pigs and fallow deer herds on the Hai Bar wildlife refuge, located on the forested slopes of the Carmel, near Haifa.
The situation has now reached a point where Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called on IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to mobilize army units to help fight the blaze.
But even with Israel mobilizing all available manpower, it now appears that help is needed from outside the country’s borders: “I really hope that our country’s diplomatic missions abroad can muster assistance to help put out this fire as soon as possible,” Fire Department spokesman Hezi Levi said.
The Fire, This Time
The dryness of the region that is aggravating this most recent fire is said by many to be caused by climate change and global warming; both of which we have written about on numerous occasions, including my recent one entitled Arab World and Med Region More Vulnerable to Climate Change.
What may be the result of Climate change getting out of hand was also shown in another article based on a futuristic Sci-Fi movie “The Fire Next Time.”
It now appears that this very devastating fire is a clear indication that the dire predictions made in the Fire Next Time are now coming to past.
More on previous fires in Israel and climate change: