50,000 dunams of the Carmel Forest, or nearly half, have been destroyed in the massive wildfire raging in northern Israel since Thursday. The fire is under control but officials said Saturday that it could take dozens of years to rehabilitate the area.
Part of the land is managed by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which contributed fire-fighting equipment and 200 specially trained JNF firefighters to assist in extinguishing the fire. The JNF force was set up during the Second Lebanon War, when frequent fires broke out in forests in the north.
Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority and many other countries sent personnel and equipment to help put out the blaze, described as the worst in Israel’s history.
As the danger recedes, Jewish National Fund Chairman Efi Stenzler said,“We will go tree by tree to make sure they are not still burning. After the flames are put out, our foresters will go tree by tree again to see what can be saved and what has to be replanted. We will replant oak trees, but also almond and pomegranate trees so that people can have shade but also see fruit.”
Some of the forest’s trees were planted by hand, while others grew as part of a natural forest.
Rangers successfully evacuated the world’s largest breeding group of raptor birds from the Hai Bar Nature reserve. Park personnel guarded the reserve’s deer in a fireproof enclosure. The extent of damage to smaller species of animals and plants in the biosphere may never be known.
Stenzler noted, “I’d like to remind all those who set fires either purposely or negligently [that] it takes dozens of years for trees to grow and only a minute to burn.”
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