Carmel Wildfire Nearing Its End, Minister Says

Fire officials cautiously optimistic as crews continued to battle flames raging in the massive brushfire still burning across the Carmel Mountains.

Israel is close to dousing the Carmel wildfire that has devastated thousands of acres of land in the north, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said on Sunday.

Cabinet meeting Carmel- GPO- Dec. 5, 2010

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of the meeting that the government will launch Sunday a program to rehabilitate the areas in the Carmel region badly damaged in the fire.

Netanyahu updated cabinet about his efforts to obtain aerial assistance from different countries around the world.

"This is a special type of battle. Unlike ordinary fires, it requires measures different than those usually employed," Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile on Sunday the American supertanker, the "Evergreen" Boeing 747 Super Tanker, took to the skies over the wildfire.

The supertanker carried out two rounds so far, releasing over 40 tons of fire-extinguishing material. Israeli pilots were on board the flight, coordinating the operation.

Israel Air Force Base Nevatim commander told Haaretz that after three days of intensive work by firefighting forces, progress is seen in the Carmel region.

"We now observe mostly smoke on the ground, with fewer sources of fire," the commander said.

Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan, commander of the Israel Air Force updated cabinet on the deployment of the international aerial forces, which come ten different countries.

The firefighting forces include 35 aircrafts, 24 of which were provided by other countries. So far, the aircrafts have performed 409 flights in efforts to extinguish the flames, Nechushtan said.

Earlier on Sunday, fire officials were cautiously optimistic as crews continued to battle flames raging in the massive brushfire still burning across the Carmel Mountains.

"We find ourselves in the best situation since the fire started," Shimon
Romah, the head of the Fire and Rescue Services, told Army Radio around 3 a.m. on Sunday.

Romah said that firefighters had overnight been able to preserve the efforts they had made throughout the day on Saturday.
Romah added, however, that winds were intensifying.

There had been fear that the situation could take a negative turn overnight.

The fire, which has been burning since Thursday, has claimed 41 lives and destroyed nearly 50,000 dunams of land in the Carmel region. On Saturday night into Sunday morning, it was still raging in four areas: Har Shokef, Nir Etzion, the Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, and Isfiya.

Firefighting crews said on Saturday evening that the fire has weakened, though there was concern that the situation could change overnight due to the inability to use most firefighting aircraft during the hours of darkness.