Massive Heat Wave Leads to Brush Fires Across Israel

Hot and dry sharav conditions come after hottest April in 130 years; more than 400 have required medical attention since the heat wave began on Saturday.

Brush fire in Neve Shaanan in Haifa. May 15, 2016.
Hof Region Firefighters

The heat wave that afflicted the entire country Sunday will continue Monday, with the exception of the coastal plain, which will enjoy a slight drop in temperatures thanks to a breeze from the Mediterranean Sea.

On Tuesday, however, temperatures are expected to fall significantly nationwide. 

Temperatures rose above 40 degrees Celsius in several places on Sunday. Eilat recorded an all-time high for May, at 46 degrees, according to the Israel Meteorological Service. Temperatures hit 43.4 degrees in Be’er Sheva, 40.6 degrees in Beit Dagan, 37.1 degrees in Jerusalem and 33.9 degrees in Safed.

A fireman stands outside the burned-down YMCA hostel in Tiberias, May 15, 2016.
Gil Eliahu

The Meteorological Service said that sharav conditions with similar temperatures are not uncommon in May. What was uncommon, it said, was how long this one lasted: A sharav of this duration occurs only once every 10 to 12 years.

A 30-year-old man from Lod was in serious condition Sunday after losing consciousness due to heatstroke. The hot, dry weather also caused fires in many places. 

Three people were mildly injured by smoke inhalation from a brush fire in Tiberias that spread to a guesthouse and restaurant. Another fire broke out at the Arik Bridge over the Jordan River, not far from Tiberias.

Three fires erupted in the Wadi Ara region, with the largest in Umm al-Fahm. A fire also broke out at Moshav Luzit near Beit Shemesh, forcing some residents to be evacuated from their houses.

A major brush fire erupted near Route 85, between Acre and Jadida Maker. In Kfar Yona, residents were told not to leave their houses due to a fire in a nearby site that contained asbestos. Fires shut down Route 444 near the Tzur Yigal junction and also closed off the entrance to Sdei Hemed. 

Brush fire in Haifa. May 15, 2016.
Hof Region Firefighters

In the Haifa area, a fire broke out on the road to the Tel Regev cemetery and another near the National Insurance Institute office in the town of Daliat al-Carmel. Several buildings in Haifa’s Neveh Sha’anan neighborhood had to be evacuated due to a nearby forest fire.

In Jerusalem, a fire broke out in the wadi between the Shoafat refugee camp and the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood. But investigators suspect this fire was set deliberately, by a firebomb thrown from Shoafat.

In Abu Ghosh, near Jerusalem, a kindergarten was evacuated due to a nearby fire. A forest fire also broke out near Moshav Mata, and Route 435 was closed to traffic in both directions between Tzur Hadassah and the Etziona junction. Another forest fire erupted near the Negev town of Netivot.