The Boeing 747 SuperTanker from Colorado Springs arrived in Israel Friday evening, prior to the start of the Sabbath in New York, to help extinguish the flames raging across the Jewish State.
The SuperTanker in the largest firefighting aerial aircraft in the world and is capable of continuing to battle flames even after dark, while carrying up to 19,600 gallons of water or fire retardant. It also produces enough pressure to create eight rounds of a rain-like environment in fighting any blaze. Along with the SuperTanker, the United States has said it is sending 50 firefighters to Israel to help battle the flames.
Planes arrived and were on the way from numerous other nations as well, with Russian sending several, several times over.
The local municipality in Haifa has video evidence that the fire which ignited near the main fire depot in the port city was set deliberately, a spokesperson for the Haifa Fire Department announced Friday.
Spokesperson Uri Chibotaro told Israel’s Channel 2 television news the city has video evidence that proves the cause of the fire.
Chibotaro’s statement was backed up by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who told Israel Radio in a separate interview that the blaze in Haifa — which sent some 75,000 residents of the city and its surrounds fleeing from their homes — there was proof indeed that the fire was an “intentional act of arson.”
At least 15 people are being held and are under investigation so far for allegations of arson and incitement to pyroterrorism, including six held in connection with the Haifa fire.
But at least two fire trucks were sent by the Palestinian Authority to help fight fires in Haifa, including those that reignited Friday due to the continued high winds. Palestinian Authority firefighting crews also worked together Friday morning with their Israeli counterparts to put out a fire in Sha’ar Haggai in the Jerusalem Hills.
In addition, Egypt has said it is sending two firefighting helicopters and Jordan has pledged several fire trucks to help its neighbor in the battle against the flames. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted all offers.
At least 700 homes were damaged and around 37 were totally destroyed in Haifa. By early Friday afternoon all Haifa residents were allowed to return home, with the exception of those living in 13 buildings too dangerous to enter.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had told reporters earlier in the day the findings of an investigation into the conflagration in the northern town of Zichron Ya’akov indicated that blaze, too, was caused by pyroterrorists.
Eyewitnesses also spotted Arab suspects igniting a fire in the forest near Beit Meir as firefighters were battling the towering blaze that had already started on the outskirts of the community. At least 10 homes in the moshav were later destroyed overnight by that fire and more were damaged, but police managed to catch the suspect who was seen nearby in the Jerusalem hills.
High levels of air pollution and asbestos particles were found in at least six locations Friday morning in Beit Meir in testing by the Environmental Protection Ministry, following the fire. Sha’ar Haggai is not far.
Friday afternoon a fire also broke out in the small northern moshav of Ya’ad, located about 300 meters north of the Jewish community of Yitzhar. In Ya’ad, residents were evacuated as a precaution.
Firefighters battled a blaze near Yitzhar with two aerial firefighter aircraft as three fire trucks created a safety perimeter around the community, since access to Yitzhar is difficult at best. It was not yet clear how that fire got started.
Residents in the Galilee town of Harashim were also evacuated Friday morning due to an outbreak of fire, which was fought from the sky by aerial firefighting aircraft, and by 15 firefighting teams on the ground.Hana Levi Julian