Haifa police are now certain the fires that broke out throughout the city on Thursday morning were set by arsonists, as one of the fires appears to have been set just outside a fire station in the city – the idea being to delay the response of firefighting trucks to alarms.
Some 60,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in the city from 12 neighborhoods and more than 100 have suffered minor injuries.
“We identified an arson hotspot near the fire station and others in a few additional hotspots,” Acting Commissioner for the National Firefighting Services Shimon Ben-Ner told Walla. Ben-Ner believes this was part of an effort to paralyze the firefighting services in Haifa.
The wave of fires raging across Israel has reached its fourth day as several neighborhoods in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, are being evacuated: Neot Sapir, Ramat Hen, Ramat Almogi, Ramat Ben-Gurion, Ahuza, Merkaz Horev, Romema, Ramat Eshkol, Begin, Ramat Golda and Neot Peres. Residents are being removed from homes, schools and kindergartens to the Auditorium in Carmel Center, the Bat Galim JCC and the Kiryat Eliezer Stadium. So far nine have been reported hurt mildly and one in fair condition.
Firefighting planes and more than 50 teams are on the scene in Haifa, and the public is urged to avoid drive to or through the coastal city. Homeland Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Thursday morning told Army Radio he expects the fires to continue to next week due to the strong winds.
Police suspect that some of the fires throughout the country have been the work of arsonists, although police believe the initial fires were not man made and the arsonists joined the game later.
Yet another fire broke out in an open area in Haifa, near the Paz bridge, which connects highway 4 to downtown. The fire spread quickly in the thorny bushes of the open field, driven by strong winds. Police reported two were lightly injured from smoke inhalation. Haifa University was evacuated. Rt. 22 was closed.
The fire in an open field near the Hadera Orot Rabin power station is in the process of getting under control. Orot Rabin is Israel’s largest power station whose 2,590 MW representing about 19% of the Israel Electric Corporation’s total generation capacity.