UPDATE via HA’ARETZ: Firefighters finally managed to fully contain the massive Carmel blaze on Sunday afternoon, after 77 hours of battling the flames in northern Israel.
Following a situation assessment, firefighting crews concluded that the fire was completely contained in all locations, however all forces would remain at the scene to carry out final fire extinguishing operations.
On the morning of December 5, Prime Minister Netanyahu called off additional international firefighting aid and announced that firefighters were coming close to dousing the worst fire in Israel’s history . After more than four days of continuous flames, the loss is devastating. At least 41 people have died, 25,000 have been evacuated, homes have been lost and more than 7,000 acres of forests are on fire – about ½ of the Carmel Forest. JNF foresters estimate that over 5 million trees have been destroyed.
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On the fourth day (Sunday, December 5th, 2010) of the fight to quench the huge fire blazing in the forests of Mount Carmel, the damage toll continues to mount: so far the fire has destroyed almost 50,000 dunam (approx 12,500 acres) of planted forest, natural woodland, open spaces and built-up areas. Almost 5 million trees have been devoured by the flames.
Areas of Deployment
This morning the main sites of the fire are in the Carmel Ridge and Alon Valley areas. The Israeli Fire Service reports that fires are still burning to the east of the Carmel Forest Hotel and on Mount Shokef. Fire crews are also operating at another site to the north east of Nir Etzion, and are working to cool the environs of the Hai Bar Nature Reserve. As we write, JNF-KKL foresters are fully deployed throughout the area, and are continuing to fight the fire with help of the organization’s twelve modern-style fire trucks, including those purchased with the help of donations from JNF donors in the United States and throughout the world.
These crews fought on throughout Friday and Saturday, under the direction of JNF-KKL World Chairman Efi Stenzler and Dr. Omri Boneh, Director of JNF-KKL’s Northern Region. Most of their efforts were focused on blocking the progress of the fire, mainly around Nir Etzion Forest, the Carmel Forest Hotel and the river gully between Nir Etzion and Daliyat al-Carmel.
It is already abundantly clear that it will take a long time to restore the lush green appearance of Mount Carmel. The ecological damage is enormous. Vast tracts of planted forest, natural woodland and carpets of flowers, together with thousands of birds, reptiles and mammals have been destroyed. “It will take decades for the landscape to be rehabilitated,” explains Dr. Omri Boneh. “Some of the trees burned were between fifty and a hundred years old.”