Fires Burn in Center and North of Israel as Heat Wave Continues

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A firefighter battles a blaze in Kfar Uriah in the Beit Shemesh, May 16, 2016.
A firefighter battles a blaze in Kfar Uriah in the Beit Shemesh, May 16, 2016.Credit: Jerusalem firefighters

A fire broke out Monday afternoon near the Sakharov Gardens intersection on Route 1 in Jerusalem and damaged several warehouses in the Givat Shaul wholesale market compound, which is close to a residential area.

A nearby synagogue was evacuated and residents were told to keep their windows shut, not due to danger of fire but because some of the market compound's roofs are made of asbestos, and police feared hazardous dust might be dispersed. Monitoring teams from the Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Department rushed to the scene and sections of area roads were closed off. Route 1 reopened to traffic once the fire was brought under control.

Firefighters also battled a fire near the capital’s Ramot neighborhood. Four firefighting planes helped the ground crews put out the fire.

Another fire destroyed some 500 dunams (125 acres) of forest and other vegetation adjacent to Kfar Uriah in the Beit Shemesh area, where flames threatened the community’s homes. Twenty-five firefighting teams, including 60 firefighters and six firefighting planes, rushed to the scene and gradually brought the fire under control. Residents in the area temporarily lost electricity and Route 44 was closed for a period of time.

There was also a fire off the coastal road near the town of Fureidis. The Zichron Yaakov interchange was closed in the southbound direction due to smoke.

Monday's fires followed numerous blazes that burned on Sunday throughout the country, from the north to the Jerusalem area, as the heat wave that started over the weekend continued. The highlands and interior of the country experienced intense sharav conditions, though temperatures dropped somewhat along the coast. Brisk winds are expected along the coast on Monday night.

The heat wave is expected to break on Tuesday, although temperatures will still be higher than normal and it will remain very hot in the eastern valleys. Tuesday will be partly cloudy to clear and temperatures will drop markedly to seasonal levels.

According to the U.S. space agency NASA, last month was the warmest April since global temperature data started to be kept 130 years ago. The data shows it was the sixth consecutive month in which temperatures exceeded the 1951-1980 averages by 1 percent.

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