Israel's State Comptroller: Carmel Fire Report One of the Harshest I've Issued

State Comptroller Lindenstrauss submits report to Knesset Speaker Rivlin on 2010 Carmel forest fire which killed 44 people, and says Israel must make immediate adjustments.

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State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss submitted the special report on the Carmel fire to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday, hours before the content of the report is due to be published.

Lindenstrauss said that it was one of the harshest reports that the State Comptroller's Office has issued during his term.

"When you will read the report, you will see a very disappointing picture that necessitates immediate adjustment," the state comptroller said. "I believe the authorities must do all that is possible to carry out the recommendations of this harsh report."

The state comptroller also commented on the dire situation of Israel's fire services. "The number of fire fighters in Israel is one fourth the amount that is in Western countries with a similar population size."

Rivlin, who received the report, said that the report focuses on correcting past mistakes, as opposed to exacting revenge on particular people.

"Israeli citizens were in shock and grief in the face of the great disaster and its tragic consequences, when Israel was caught unprepared for natural disasters," Rivlin said. "Israel is always prepared for outside threats, but had failed in the face of domestic threats."

The report, which will be made public on Wednesday afternoon, is expected to assign "special responsibility" to Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, but will not call explicitly for their ouster.

The report will also assign general responsibility for the 2010 blaze to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
Lindenstrauss is expected to stress that responsibility must not be shifted from the cabinet to lower-level officials. While the latter also bear some blame, he will say, that in no way absolves the former.

But he is expected to assign personal responsibility to several such officials, both past and present, in the Israel Police, Prison Service and Fire and Rescue Services. He also plans to send the report to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who can consider pursuing legal action.

The fire began on the outskirts of the northern town of Isfiya on December 2, 2010, and rapidly spread through the Carmel Forest. At one point, a bus carrying Prison Service cadets and officers was trapped by the flames while en route to extract prisoners from Damon Prison, which was threatened by the fire. The bus went up in flames, and 37 passengers were killed.

Altogether the fire killed 44 people, destroyed 18 houses and damaged 173 more.

Firefighters dwarfed by the Carmel forest fire in 2010. Credit: Itzik Ban-Malki

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