Shimon Peres Dec. 6, 2010 GPO
Shimon Peres thanks the Russian Emergency and Disaster Relief Delegation for its part in putting out the Carmel forest fire. Photo by GPO
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A Defense Ministry report last year recommended setting up a central national command for the Fire and Rescue Services, instead of regional depots, and acquiring planes to put out large fires. Although the report was passed on to the Prime Minister's Office and the Interior Ministry for their immediate attention, there was no response, sources in the ministry's National Emergency Authority (NEA ), which prepared the report, said.

"It's a scandal," a senior defense ministry official said over the weekend. "But nobody was willing to do anything about it. There's a ministry in charge of firefighting but they just weren't interested."

The report recommended a comprehensive reorganization of the fire services and the creation of a situation room for the fire commissioner. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, who received the report, passed it on to the PMO and Interior Minister Eli Yishai's aides.

The NEA was set up in the wake of the Second Lebanon War to improve coordination among the central and local governments, IDF, police, fire and rescue services, and private organizations, and to upgrade preparedness of the homefront during times of emergency and natural disasters.

Since the Carmel fire, the NEA has been working with the Israel Electric Corporation and local water suppliers to restore utilities to communities and neighborhoods devastated by the fire. The NEA has also been helping some 15,000 people evacuated from their homes in the fire.

The NEA airlifted 120 tons of fire retardant from France for fire trucks and planes when local depots ran out of supplies about 24 hours after the fire had started.

"The Interior Ministry should have made sure we had retardant supplies," the defense official said. "But apparently they didn't even notice they had run out."