A firefighter dousing flames in the Biriya Forest
A firefighter dousing flames in the Biriya Forest on Friday. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
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Firefighting services suspect arson was the cause of a least some, if not all, of the six wildfires that broke out in the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights on Friday afternoon. Border Police forces were searching the area for suspects. The blazes decimated thousands of acres of pasture and forest.

The largest fire was in the Biriya Forest, between Hatzor Haglilit and Safed, spreading toward the Amud and Dishon streams. Large firefighting forces from the Upper Galilee-Golan district and from the Jewish National Fund worked to contain the flames with the aid of four firefighting planes.

Another large fire that burned near Kibbutz Gonen in Upper Galilee destroyed pasture, and natural forest burned near Kibbutz Yiftach, which is close to the border with Lebanon and Kiryat Shmona. Both fires were contained using six firefighting planes, firefighters, Israel Defense Forces soldiers and JNF teams. The fires were only stopped Friday evening.

Aviram Tzuk, JNF regional director for the Galilee district, said that the fire that began on the eastern slopes of the Biriya Forest leaped quickly uphill and was aided by the easterly wind and the dry condition of the tall vegetation.

The Biriya fire started in three locations, all near the road from Hatzor Haglilit to Amuka, over a short period of time. Police believe this may be indicative of arson. The Fire and Rescue service speculated there could be a political motive behind the suspected arson. Tzuk noted this was the third fire to begin in the area in recent weeks.