Fire Department Was Slow to Respond, Pilot Says

Eyewitness account raises questions over handling of Carmel brushfire.

A flight instructor said yesterday he spotted the Carmel fire early and alerted the fire department, but the first plane sent to battle the blaze took off more than two hours later.

The instructor, Alon Chaim, noticed the fire near a rocky area on the outskirts of the Druze village of Isfiya during a flight lesson. Chaim said he reported the fire to the air traffic controllers at Haifa Airport, who in turn alerted the fire department at 11:14 A.M. Chaim filmed the fire while continuing with his lesson.

fire - Hagai Frid - December 2 2010
Hagai Frid

"I flew with a student. I saw smoke over the Carmel hills," he said. "I flew over the fire, which at that point was a tiny blaze just outside Isfiya. It was very easy to get to it with a fire truck. I reported the fire to the air-traffic-control tower at Haifa Airport."

Chaim said he had noticed the fire when it still could have been put out quickly.

The pilot said he later learned that the air traffic controllers first noticed firefighting aircraft in the region at 1:45 P.M.