Spate of Fires in North Damages Cars, Forces Hikers to Flee

Banana plantations significantly damaged by fire near Church of Capernaum on nothern side of Lake Kinneret, on day after fire at Golan foothills.

Four cars were burned Saturday and significant damage was caused to banana plantations by a fire near the Church of Capernaum on the northern shore of Lake Kinneret. The blaze erupted a day after firefighters spent a full day trying to extinguish a fire in the Golan foothills.

Saturday's fire broke out in a field of brush near Route 87 and quickly spread, reaching the parking lot near the church, destroying the cars there. It also spread to the nearby plantation, causing damage.

fire, Kinneret - 16.7.11
Gil Eliahu

Three fire-fighting teams from Tiberias and a firefighting aircraft managed to extinguish the blaze after several hours.

Meanwhile, two fires broke out on the eastern shore of the lake, at Dugit Beach and at the Dodot Bridge, near the Jordan River. Both were put out by Upper Galilee and Golan Heights firefighting teams.

On Friday,the same teams of firefighters spent a full day battling a blaze that began Thursday at the Ein-Tina nature reserve in the Golan foothills. Danny Hanina, commander of the fire fighting units in the eastern Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights, said that the blaze destroyed some 10,000 dunams of vegetation before it was extinguished.

The fire broke out at about 2 p.m. on Thursday on the eastern side of Hula Valley, and quickly spread, forcing some hikers to flee the area. Six people, including a pregnant woman, were lightly injured from smoke inhalation and cuts which they suffered while fleeing the area.

Danny Buzaglo, who operates a kiosk in the area, said that "the fire began along a trail and therefore I am nearly certain that it was caused by the negligence of a hiker. It is possible that they dropped a lit cigarette or some other source of fire."

Buzaglo added that last year a large fire in the area was caused by a hiker who tossed into the brush a single use butane gas canister, which had caught fire as he held it.

"The fire destroyed everything in its path," said Guy Alon, who heads the northern district of the Nature and Parks Authority. "These are areas with springs and wadis where the vegetation is very thick. Nature knows how to rehabilitate itself, but it will take a long time. The hikers are responsible for preventing the fires that break out as a result of negligence."