Fires Break Out in Judean Hills, Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Road Temporarily Closed

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 4:23 PM

Fires break out near entrance to Jerusalem, in Motza and Kibbutz Maale Hahamisha. 48 fire-fighting teams, including KKL-JNF personell, fight the blazes. Arson is suspected.

On Wednesday, June 27, smoke could still be seen smoldering in forests around Jerusalem, where a series of fires broke out on Tuesday. The first fire broke out at the entrance to Jerusalem, near Motza, and spread to Arazim Valley, which is a part of the new Jerusalem Metropolitan Park being developed by KKL-JNF and various government agencies. Another fire broke out near Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hahamisha. The fire began at about 1 P.M., and parts of Route 1, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, were closed due to the heavy smoke and flames. The road was closed for a number of hours, causing major traffic jams. Jerusalem police and fire fighters say they suspect arson was the cause of both fires.

Photo: Tania Susskind
Fire fighters from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, along with KKL-JNF personnel, were the first to arrive on the scene when the fires broke out. At the peak of the fires, there were a total of 48 fire fighting teams from all over the country at both locations. Police and fire fighters had planned to evacuate hundreds of residents of nearby Mevasseret Tziyon, but the fire was brought under control before the evacuation was deemed necessary. All told, about 300 dunams of natural woodland went up in flames, including 200 dunams in the Arazim Valley. By 4:30 PM., the fire was brought under control and Route 1 was reopened. A number of teams were left on duty in the burned areas through the night.
The blaze occurred a week after State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss had issued a report criticizing various government ministries over their lack of preparedness for the Carmel Forest fire that broke out in December 2010

Photo: Tania Susskind

Photo: Tania Susskind

Menahem Moshe, the KKL-JNF forest ranger who is responsible for infrastructure and fire fighting in the Judean Hills, said that at Ma'ale Hahamisha, where about 50 dunams of natural woodlands and planted forests went up in flames, four teams of KKL-JNF employees, seven foresters and two KKL-JNF fire trucks helped contain the blaze. The KKL-JNF fire trucks were donated by Friends of KKL-JNF worldwide. "Another three KKL-JNF fire trucks were at Motza together with additional KKL-JNF employees and foresters," Moshe continued. "Two of our workers were lightly injured during fire fighting efforts, one from smoke inhalation and the other from burns. They were both treated on the spot and then transferred to Sha'arei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem.
"We have been patrolling the area since then in order to make sure that the fires don't break out again. Our teams created firebreaks in order to separate between what went up in flames and what didn't. The problem is that when you put out forest fires, the fire is extinguished on top, but it might creep under the upper level to dry materials that hadn't caught fire and the flames are liable to break out again.
"As for rehabilitation, KKL-JNF will be following its policy of recent years, which is to wait about a year and to see which trees are recovering and to monitor nature's renewal process. Only after we have that data do we decide how much and where to intervene. This approach has proved itself in the recent Carmel fire and other forest fires in Israel," Menahem concluded.