Carmel blaze - Itzik Ben-Malki
Investigators recreating the start of the Carmel blaze, which reportedly began when a youth threw a lit hookah coal into the forest. Photo by Itzik Ben-Malki
Text size

A younger brother of two teenagers from Isfiya suspected of involvement in accidentally starting the Carmel fire was arrested yesterday but, notwithstanding reports of a confession, said he did not discard the burning ember thought to have sparked the conflagration.

The 13-year-old boy did tell police he was at the site where firefighters say the blaze began.

Investigators suspect the fire started when a coal used to heat a nargila water pipe was carelessly tossed on the ground and a trash pile caught fire. The wind and drought are thought to have contributed to the rapid spread of the flames.

On Saturday the 13-year-old's two brothers, aged 14 and 16, were arrested and questioned over their role in the fire. The 14-year-old admitted to being in the area where investigators said the fire began, but said he did not discard the burning charcoal. He later reenacted the incident for investigators, and both he and his older brother were placed under house arrest.

The boys' parents say their sons had nothing to do with starting the fire.

Upon his release to house arrest yesterday the 14-year-old denied any connection to the fire, saying he was at school on Thursday morning, when the blaze began.

"I'm a schoolboy, I have nothing to do with the police and with courts," he said. "I was at school and I didn't do anything."

Waju Kayuf, who heads the Isfiya local council, said that while there may have been negligence on the suspects' part, "the blame and responsibility cannot be pinned on the children."

"The ones responsible are the leadership, for failing to implement the recommendations of the various panels that were established," he said at the police station where the teens were questioned. "I think that I also bear some responsibility, despite being in my position only a year ... for these teens not having any after-school education program available."

At Kibbutz Beit Oren yesterday, where about 40 apartments were severely damaged in the fire, employees from the electric and telephone companies, along with insurance representatives and tax assessors, began the work of putting the community back together.

"It's a good start, but it's early days yet, we'll judge by the results," said Ran Ronen, whose own apartment and those of his three children suffered extensive damage.

At the artists village of Ein Hod, Micha Feigin continued to search for his family's cats, who have not been seen since the weekend.

"I have a guilty conscience over not breaking through the security barrier to get our cats," he said.