Summer’s Starting: Time to Prevent Bushfires

Thursday, May 21, 2020 11:40 AM

A first for Israel: National forum to prevent fires in open spaces and minimize damage to people and the environment established.

Translated from the original Hebrew on Shemeshnet, May 12, 2020


Right before the Lag BaOmer festival, and following the Israeli government’s decision to forbid the traditional lighting of bonfires, the [newly established] National Forum for Preventing Fires in Open Spaces met for the first time and embarked on an aerial tour to map high risk fire areas in Israel.


L-R: KKL-JNF World Chairman Daniel Atar ; IFRA Commissioner Dedi Simchi; and INPA Director Shaul Goldstein. Photo: Yisrael Peretz, KKL-JNF Photo Archive


Fire and Rescue Authority Commissioner Dedi Simhi, KKL-JNF World Chairman Daniel Atar, and Israel Nature and Parks Authority Director Shaul Goldstein embarked an aerial tour by helicopter on Monday, May 11, an indication that “the summer won’t wait for corona”. The purpose of the flyover was to survey the preparedness of all the relevant organizations for the summer bushfire season for open spaces, forest parks, woodlands, and national parks. Among the sites surveyed: the Carmel forests, Elyakim, Ramot Menashe, Wadi Ara, Horshim Forest, Nahshonim and the Beit Shemesh forests.


The joint tour was part of the increased strategic cooperation between the organizations in order to create effective national forum to deal with summer fires and instigate a change in Israeli leisure culture by calling on the public to refrain from lighting fires in nature sites and open spaces during the summer months.


According to Fire and Rescue Authority Commissioner Dedi Simhi, “in Israel, tens of thousands of fires erupt every year. They endanger people’s lives and destroy open spaces, nature and property. The members of the forum decided to take joint action in order to influence the public discourse and develop a leisure culture without fires - one that accepts responsibility for the public domain and for the environment. The Israel Fire and Rescue Authority is ready to provide a rapid operational response to fires and to work together in order to lessen the huge amount of damage that fires cause to people and the environment.”


The past winter brought a great deal of welcome rains, leading to increased growth of foliage, which during the summer months become a powerful and dangerous fuel source for the rapid spread of fires. The anticipated climatic trends, along with global weather changes influence all aspects of life, including the proliferation of bushfires and the increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves and extreme weather events.


Over the next few weeks, the aforementioned organizations will work together to implement controlled burning in high-combustion areas; prune foliage and uncover buffer lines; and embark on joint patrols to monitor and map high-risk areas.


L-R: Dedi Simchi and Daniel Atar at the national firefighting center in Rishon LeTzion. Photo: Yisrael Peretz, KKL-JNF Photo Archive


KKL-JNF World Chairman Daniel Atar said: “In anticipation of the beginning of summer, when people will go back to visiting KKL-JNF sites, we are preparing and finalizing a plan to help prevent fires in open spaces and forests. KKL-JNF firefighters, who over the past two years have fought the thousands of fires caused by incendiary balloons [from the Gaza strip] are now ready. They are working in full collaboration with the Israel Fire and Rescue Authority and additional organizations in order to ensure maximal protection of human lives and nature.”


It is important to note that this is the first time that a national, inclusive, multi-organizational front has been established to prevent fires in open spaces, and its directives will be implemented at all levels of the various organizations’ activities. The damage to open spaces wrought by fires over the past decade is estimated at billions of shekels, as a result of huge conflagrations that have taken (44) human lives, destroyed hundreds of homes, and caused millions of trees to go up in flames.


Israel Nature and Parks Authority Director Shaul Goldstein added that “fires in nature destroy flora and fauna. Some of the flora recuperates after the rains, but not the animals. Israel’s nature is very precious, and every fire that we manage to prevent saves entire worlds of natural habitat.”


Another decision was made to create a national information forum to prevent fires, which will be headed by the Israeli Fire and Rescue Authority, with the participation of KKL-JNF, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, the Israel Police Department, the Home Front Command, and the Ministry of Education. The forum will work to increase awareness in all sectors of Israeli society to the damage caused by fires, along with recruiting them to help lead a change in public consciousness regarding fire safety and outdoors culture.


After the survey by helicopter, the KKL-JNF chairman and INPA director visited the new national firefighting center in Rishon Letziyon, where they saw an enactment of a real-time event at the center’s modern simulator, giving them a realistic impression of the professional challenges firefighters face in the field.