Volunteer Units to Fight Forest Fires

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 9:31 AM

In view of the realization that local residents can play a central role in forest protection, KKL-JNF and local Fire Departments have been organizing volunteer units for fire suppression.

Who can respond faster to forest fires than the people who live nearby? In view of the realization that local residents can play a central role in forest protection, KKL-JNF and local Fire Departments have been organizing volunteer units for fire suppression.
The inaugural ceremony for the new volunteer unit of firefighters for the Modiin region, which took place in Tel Hadid on September 4, 2012, in Ben Shemen Forest, was attended by the Fire and Rescue Commissioner, the Director General of KKL-JNF, the Regional Council Chairmen and, of course, the 38 good citizens who decided to volunteer for this important job.

Volunteers: Boaz Shaham, Leah Baruch, & Lior Risi. Photos: Yoav Devir

This is the third volunteer unit that has been organized jointly by KKL-JNF and local Fire Departments, after Karmei Yosef and Kfar Chabad. About a hundred volunteers have already been trained in the different units, and an additional unit is now in the process of being organized in Mesilat Tziyon.
The Modiin volunteers had their first taste of fire while still in the midst of their training course, when eight of them, who live in Shilat, were the first on the scene when the fire in Shilat Forest broke out this summer.
Lior Risi, one of the volunteers who had been there, said, “We held the fire at bay until the other firefighting forces arrived about half an hour later. This was proof that the concept works. The professionals from the Fire Department and from KKL-JNF gave us positive feedback about our work. I believe that a unit like this should be established in every community.”
At the ceremony, KKL-JNF Director General Yosef Eyal said that involving the community is the key to a flourishing forest, and the community forest is the most successful model. “Lessons have been learned since the Carmel fire. Even though KKL-JNF is not the Fire Department, we have equipment and people who know how to do the job,” said the Director General.

KKL-JNF Fire Truck from KKL-France.

Photos: Yoav Devir
Indeed, during the ceremony in Tel Hadid, among all the Fire Department fire trucks, there was one KKL-JNF fire truck, which had been donated by friends of KKL France and the France-Israel Foundation. Many more fire trucks all over Israel have been similarly donated by friends of KKL-JNF throughout the world.
Course participants received instruction about all the equipment at the disposal of the Fire Department, so that they would be able to do the job efficiently when necessary. During the ceremony, they demonstrated rescuing people trapped in a car. The big, orange human doll was safely rescued from the car and taken by stretcher for medical attention to the sound of applause from the audience.
The volunteers then practiced extinguishing a burning car. They sprayed it with water hoses and foam. When a powerful jet of water was sprayed from the crane high up in the air, a rainbow was visible in the sky. Perhaps this could be seen as a good omen for the future of the forests.

Burning car rescue excercise.

Photos: Yoav Devir
About the volunteers, Fire Chief Meir Harel of the Ayalon Fire Department said, “We can certainly rely on these people.” Addressing the volunteers directly, the head of the Modiin Region Regional Council, Shimon Soussan, said, “I am proud that we have people like you.”
Participants in the course were from four communities—Gimzo, Kfar Daniel, Shilat and Mevo Modiin. What they all have in common is that their communities are surrounded by forested areas. They consequently face the threat of wildfires. Boaz Shaham, one of the new volunteers said it well. “As far as we are concerned,” he said, “our job is to protect the forest and also to protect our homes.” He described the work of the volunteers as “the glass of water you pour on the fire when it is still small. Sometimes it is enough to put out the fire and prevent a huge disaster.”

Shimon Soussan. Photo: Yoav Devir

Representing the volunteers, Nahum Appel spoke at the ceremony and said, “All of us are aware of the danger our communities face when there is a fire, and clearly, in order to provide a swift response, local residents have to be involved.”
It is not only the men who have volunteered to drop everything at the time of need and run to fight the flames. Among the course graduates there were also three women. One of them was Leah Baruch who said, “It is important for women to be represented in a group of volunteers such as this one, as in every other walk of life. After all, we too are responsible for the protection of the forests.”
KKL-JNF Forester of the Ben Shemen vicinity, Hagai Yablovitch, said that he believes this project will connect the volunteers to the forests not just when there is a fire, and connecting the public to the forests is one of KKL-JNF's main goals. KKL-JNF Community and Forest Coordinator Mira Zer noted the importance of education, in addition to the volunteers' contribution to fire suppression.
After the volunteers received certificates from Fire Department and KKL-JNF representatives, KKL-JNF personnel surprised the fire department officials by also presenting them with certificates in recognition of their protection of the forests. The ceremony was concluded by Fire Commissioner Shahar Ayalon, who thanked the volunteers and said, “The small firefighting force in the State of Israel is becoming a strong national system capable of responding quickly and effectively.”

Receiving certificates. Photo: Yoav Devir

Modiin Volunteer Fire Fighters. Photo: Yoav Devir

Everyone at the event made a toast in honor of the New Year and expressed their hope that the volunteers would not have to be alerted too often. It is good to know that they will be there if necessary—skilled, determined and close to the location of the fire.