Firefighting plane Haifa
A plane sprays fire extinguishing material over the blaze in the valley below near the northern city of Haifa, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010. Photo by AP
Text size
Reuters
Firefighters gained full control over the Carmel fire on Sunday, December 5, 2010. Photo by Reuters

Firefighters have finally managed to fully contain the massive Carmel blaze on Sunday afternoon, after 77 hours of battling the flames in northern Israel.

Following a situation assessment, firefighting crews have concluded that the fire was completely contained in all locations, however all forces would remain at the scene to carry out final fire extinguishing operations.

Firefighting commissionership operations officer Boaz Rakia said that the control of the fire means that the populated areas in the north which were evacuated are no longer in danger.

After firefighters battled with the flames for several hours on Sunday evening, they succeeded in extinguishing all the small blazes that were still burning after the fire was contained.

Earlier Sunday, the world's largest firefighting aircraft, the American "Evergreen" Boeing 747 Super Tanker, took to the skies in a last push to put out the flames that were still burning through the Carmel Mountains.

The firefighting forces included 35 aircrafts, 24 of which were provided by foreign countries.

The fire, which was burning since Thursday, claimed 41 lives and destroyed nearly 50,000 dunams of land in the Carmel region.

Early on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered to halt the arrival of new foreign firefighting aircraft, after apparently accepting an Israel Air Force recommendation that the existing firefighting force was providing the best response to the bushfire, the worst in Israel's history.

That recommendation joined a statement by firefighting headquarters, according to which major fire sources have been doused.

Netanyahu's order came after Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, speaking at a special cabinet meeting earlier on Sunday, indicated that Israeli forces, along with foreign teams, were close to extinguishing the wildfire.

Also speaking at that meeting, Netanyahu said that the government was going to launch a program to rehabilitate the areas in the Carmel region, which were badly damaged.

The premier updated the cabinet about his efforts to obtain aerial assistance from different countries around the world.

"This is a special type of battle. Unlike ordinary fires, it requires measures different than those usually employed," Netanyahu said.