Major Carmel Wildfire Sources Have Been Doused, Firefighters Say

Netanyahu blocks new foreign fire-fighting missions amid reports that Israeli, international fire-fighting crews are close to dousing the worst wildfire in Israel's history.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered to halt the arrival of new foreign fire-fighting aircraft on Sunday, in what could be yet another indication that firefighters were close to gaining control of the Carmel wildfire which has been raging since Thursday.

Carmel fire Reuters 5/12/2010

The premier's order comes as an apparent acceptance of a Israel Air Force recommendation, according to which the existing fire-fighting force provided the best response to the bushfire, the worst in Israel's history.

That recommendation joined a statement by fire-fighting headquarters, according to which major fire sources have been doused.

Netanyahu's order came after earlier Sunday Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, speaking at a special cabinet meeting, indicated that Israeli forces, along with foreign teams, were close to dousing the Carmel.

Also speaking at that meeting, Netanyahu said that the government was to launch a program to rehabilitate the areas in the Carmel region badly damaged in the fire.

The premier 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.