Huge Wildfire in the Forests of Eshtaol and Tzora

Monday, July 27, 2015 11:20 AM

KKL-JNF teams joined firefighting teams from the Jerusalem vicinity and fought the fire for many hours.

On Friday, July 24, a huge wildfire broke out in the Eshtaol and Tzora forests in central Israel. KKL-JNF teams joined firefighting teams from the Jerusalem vicinity and fought the fire for many hours. The fire damage is enormous - 1,600 dunams (400 acres) of forested area went up in flames, wildlife perished, and recreation areas and historic trails were damaged.

Extinguishing fire in Eshtaol Forest with earth. Photo: Yossi Zamir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

 
KKL-JNF fire truck. Photo: Yossi Zamir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
 
Seventy teams of firefighters succeeded in suppressing the huge wildfire in the area of Beit Shemesh, but the damage is great. The fire consumed 1,600 dunams (400 acres) of forested areas, an old forest was burned, recreation areas and historic trails were damaged, and wildlife was trapped in the fire. The Fire Chief described the fire as “the largest since the Carmel disaster.” It will take decades to repair the fire damage. 

Eleven KKL-JNF fire trucks and fifty KKL-JNF workers assisted the firefighting forces, and KKL-JNF asked the public to refrain from visiting the Eshtaol and Tzora forests, since there was heavy equipment working in the area, and there was danger of collapsing trees.

Haim Messing, KKL-JNF Central Region Director, gave an update saying that “tens of KKL-JNF foresters and fire trucks were mobilized from all over the country and blazed paths with ATVs to create firebreaks for the protection of the nearby villages of Taoz, Kfar Uriah and Tzora.”

Over the weekend, KKL-JNF foresters continued working in the area of the wildfire and were using heavy equipment to remove trees in danger of collapsing. 

Photo: Yossi Zamir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Gilad Mastai
, KKL-JNF Coastal and Lowland Region Director, said, “Since this morning, KKL-JNF staff have been in the area assisting the firefighting forces. KKL-JNF foresters, rangers and watchmen helped locate and suppress resurgence of the fire, which raged in a location beloved by hikers; an old forest planted in the 1950s and 1960s that has recreation areas and historic trails in addition to its natural beauty, which sustained severe damage.

“The fire consumed magnificent mature trees and also decimated shrub vegetation that was growing beneath the pines. There were jackals, snakes and turtles in the area that were burned and trapped in the inferno. Decades of damage was done. A unique vacation area was lost by the people of Israel. It will take twenty years for the forest to be restored to its former state, even though people will be able to return to the forest as soon as next year and see the process of rehabilitation.”

Mastai noted the suspicion that it was the negligent burning of cuttings in one of the towns nearby that led to the wildfire, and “due to the topography and the extreme weather conditions,” he said, “the fire climbed up the hills and up to the treetops and destroyed thousands of dunams.” He asked the public not to come to the area. “There is a danger of trees collapsing, and the firefighting efforts are still in progress.”


Photo Gallery: Click on each thumbnail for the full image