Photo Credit: Ariel Kedem / Israel Nature & Parks Authority
Fire near Beit Meir. August 15, 2021

A massive fire broke out Sunday near Beit Meir, a religious Moshav nine miles from Jerusalem, just off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. At least six nearby communities — Beit Meir, Ksalon, Ramat Raziel, Shoresh, Sho’eva and Givat Ye’arim — were evacuated, with thousands of residents ordered to leave their homes in the Judean hills as a precaution. Houses were burning in the town of Ramat Raziel as firefighters and rescue workers urged residents to evacuate.

Three individuals were treated for smoke inhalation by medics from Magen David Adom’s emergency medical response team, although none required hospitalization.

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Nissim Twito, district commander of the Jerusalem District Fire & Rescue Services, said early Sunday evening that the fire could be the biggest blaze to have taken place in the area in recent years.

Twelve firefighting planes and helicopters deployed to support some 60 to 70 teams of firefighters as they battled the blaze.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi together ordered the immediate deployment of firefighters, airborne rescue forces (Unit 669) and other Home Front Command means of fighting the flames.

The IDF Home Front Command and the Search & Rescue Unit 669 also deployed to help fight the fire.

As of 7 pm, the fire was still not under control. The Eitanim hospital near Shoresh was successfully evacuated by air as cars can’t get there due to the fire.

A meeting of the Israeli government security cabinet that was taking place was interrupted due to the increasing severity of the flames spreading through the forested Jerusalem hills.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett switched focus to hold a consultation on the fire. He then scheduled a situational assessment following the consult, together with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, the commissioners of police and fire & rescue, and the head of the National Security Council, plus other senior officials.

A National Home Front Command Center was opened in Ramle by the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Authority to coordinate the government response to the flames raging in the forested hills around Jerusalem.

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev traveled to the command center to help with coordination of the firefighting efforts.

The fire near Beit Meir. August 15, 2021. Credit: Ariel Kedem / Israel Nature & Parks Authority
A firefighting plane near Beit Meir. August 15, 2021. Credit: Ariel Kedem / Israel Nature & Parks Authority
Smoke covers Jerusalem from the Beit Meir fire. Augusat 15, 20201 Credit: Shelav Shalom / TPS

The thick black smoke from the fire covered significant parts of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion, and is heading towards the Dead Sea.

Credit: Shalev Shalom/TPS
Smoke covers Jerusalem from the Beit Meir fire. Augusat 15, 20201 Credit: Amichai Gabbai / TPS

Credit; United Hatzalah

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