A firefighting plane dousing the flames close to Ein Hemed, on the outskirts of Jerusalem
A firefighting plane dousing the flames close to Ein Hemed, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on July 15, 2012.. Photo by Shiran Granot
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The fire that broke out in Ein Hemed west of Jerusalem Sunday afternoon reminded us that firefighting manpower in that region is lacking, as is accessibility to people living in the vicinity.

For the 600 families living in the area of Ein Hemed, Har Adar and Ma’aleh Hahamisha, there is only one fire station, one fire truck and three firefighters. If a fire breaks out in Maoz Zion − which is across Route 1 from, and slightly south of, Mevassaret Zion, and is also known as the Kastel − additional firefighters must be called in from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh. It takes them about 25 minutes to arrive.

“When a fire breaks out in the Kastel, we have to abandon our own areas to help there,” Jerusalem firefighting officials said.

Between the Kastel and Ein Hemed, going in a northwesterly direction, there are hundreds of dunams of planted forests and natural woodland. The only road between the two locales was blocked several years ago. According to some residents, this happened because people who have ties to the local government live there, and did not want a major road connecting the two communities.

Aryeh Shamam, mayor of both Mevasseret and the Kastel, explained that to reach the area north of the Kastel and Ein Hemed, a fire truck cannot drive from the Kastel directly to get to Ein Hemed or beyond − but rather has to take Route 1 down to Ein Hemed, and then drive back up via a narrow, winding road.

Shamam said that when he got word of the fire yesterday, he got a bulldozer to open the shorter route right through the Kastel.

Fire Commissioner Shahar Ayalon called residents’ complaints of the late arrival of the fire trucks “bizarre,” asserting that “the fire trucks saved an entire neighborhood.”

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said additional funding was needed to provide more fire trucks for the Kastel.