Photo Credit: Hillel Maier / TPS
Brush fire near Nataf. (2016)

By Andrew Friedman

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Wednesday that they would ask Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and possibly Turkey to send firefighting aircraft overnight to help Israeli crews subdue brush fires that continue to rage around the country.

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Weather forecasts for Thursday indicate continued high winds and low humidity, leading fire and police officials to fear that additional fires could break out. Israel Police aircraft conducted dozens of firefighting sorties Wednesday, but officials fear a spike in fire activity tomorrow could overwhelm Israeli capabilities.

As of this writing, fire crews successfully pushed the fire raging near the Jerusalem-area community of Nataf away from the community, and rescue crews had allowed residents to return to their homes. Fire teams worked to ensure the fire didn’t reignite near the town.

Also Wednesday, fires broke out in Karkom, near Tiberias.

By 5 p.m. police aircraft had assisted ground crews with some 70 sorties, totaling dozens of flying hours. Airborne crews dropped approximately 30 cubic meters of fire retardant and 200 tons of liquid on the fires.

In addition, Israel Parks and Nature Authority director Shaul Goldstein said Authority inspectors have been assisting fire crews battle the Zichron Yaakov and Nataf fires since Tuesday. Thus far the fires have destroyed thousands of dunams of wild brush.

“These are terrible scenes to look at,” Goldstein said while touring the site at one flash point. “A whole world has been burnt. Animals and a rich plant world that we couldn’t manage to protect. More than the stiff punishments that should be meted out to the people responsible, we must give deep explanations to the public. These fires are not predestined.

“Over the past two years the Parks and Nature Authority has constructed more than 1,000 dunams of buffer lines at a cost of NIS 600,000 ($154,600)… I call on the government to fund [additional] buffer lines and to maintain them in open areas,” Goldstein added.

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TPS - The Tazpit News Agency provides news from Israel.