After 52-hour Battle, Firefighters Gain Full Control Over Jerusalem Mega-fire

The blaze, which broke out on Sunday, has burned 5,000 acres of bushland and forest, forcing the evacuation of several communities

A firefighter on the second day of a massive fire in the Jerusalem area, Monday.
A firefighter on the second day of a massive fire in the Jerusalem area, Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Firefighters gained full control over a huge fire in the Judean Hills on Tuesday, two days after several fires in the Jerusalem area began spreading outward.

Some 1,500 firefighters worked for 52 hours as they battled to subdue the flames at seven locations. In addition to 204 firefighting teams, 20 firefighter planes were used.

Area of the Jersualem hills fire

Throughout Tuesday, dozens of fire trucks, including four provided by the Palestinian Authority, and eight firefighting planes worked to extinguish the blaze. In the evening, the Israel Air Force added a Lockheed C-130 to the efforts, so it could spray areas that would have potentially reignited.

Earlier Tuesday, Israel's Fire and Rescue Service chief, Commissioner Dedy Simhy told Army Radio that firefighters had determined the location where the fire started in Jerusalem Hills west of the city, but are still examining what caused it.

"We understand [it’s] importance and sensitivity,” he said. “We are examining the situation, and when we'll have answers, we will pass them to those who require them.”

Smoke covers Jerusalem Hills as fire rages in the area, yesterday. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Speaking to Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, Simhy also turned down international offers of aid in fighting the fires.

The fire service said that the fire had burned about 25,000 dunams (over 6,000 acres) of brush land and forest, about the same area burned by the Carmel forest fire of 2010, which killed 44 people. The Jewish National Fund estimated that this week's fire burned a smaller area of 14,000 dunams (3,500 acres.)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanked the Palestinian Authority, by way of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, for sending fire trucks to Israel that assisted in the efforts to extinguish the blaze.

"I would like to thank the chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas for the initiative that sent firefighting forces that assisted Israel today,” Gantz wrote on Twitter. “Having responsibility for each another and saving lives are in the common interest of all of us."

As of Tuesday morning, residents of two communities in the area of the blaze, Kibbutz Tzova and Givat Ye’arim, have still not been allowed back to their homes due to air pollution and ongoing blazes in the area. The fire has also damaged the electricity grid in the area.

The Environmental Protection Ministry reported extreme air pollution levels at Tsova, Givat Ye’arim and at the site of the Eitanim psychiatric hospital on Tuesday morning.

On Monday, Israeli authorities examined the possible help of backup firefighters from overseas, but Simhi said an assessment would be made on Tuesday as to whether they would be necessary.

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