By Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of Israeli firefighters and firefighting aircraft — both civil and military — had managed to get the rapidly spreading Jerusalem Hills fire under control after battling the blaze since Sunday afternoon.
Fire and Rescue Services Chief Dedi Simchi told Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev that Israel would no longer need assistance from its international partners, and the request for aid could be withdrawn.
For the 1st time, "Shimshon" C-130J Super Hercules aircraft are being operated to put out wildfires in Jerusalem. Airborne search and rescue Unit 669 & Home Front Command troops are also on the ground to help extinguish the flames.
We are always on call to protect Israel. pic.twitter.com/JNy6zjcq9n
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) August 17, 2021
On Tuesday evening, Dedi told Israel’s Channel 13 News that although it is certain the fire was started by humans, the reason is not entirely clear.
“I’m not certain yet that it was arson, although as I have said constantly, it was caused by humans. To confirm that it was arson, we need all sorts of elements which is more police work than firefighting work,” he said.
To make sure that the fire does not reignite, however, Simhi added, “We’ll be staying all night and also tomorrow to confirm completely that the fire will not resume.”
The three-day blaze surpassed the December 2010 Carmel Fire in northern Israel, which burned for 77 hours, killed 44 people, destroyed 74 buildings and burned through 24,000 dunams of the Mount Carmel forested area just south of Haifa. More than 17,000 people were evacuated, including several villages in the vicinity of the fire, and there was considerable property and environmental damage.
Until this week, that was considered Israel’s largest forest fire ever.
This week’s Jerusalem Hills fire burned through some 25,000 dunams (6,200 acres) and forced thousands of people to flee the flames approaching their homes and communities.
In addition to 150 firefighting teams that fought the blaze, 20 firefighters were sent by the Palestinian Authority to aid in the effort to combat the flames.
Pilots in two firefighting aircraft flew 500 separate sorties to drop fire-retardant material to help extinguish the flames. In addition, an Israeli Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft joined the battle to extinguish the flames.