The Carmel Wildfire: Apocalypse Here, and Now

Gnarled and sooty trees rested on the ground. A bronze lion roared at the entrance to a house that was totally consumed.

In a tour of Ein Hod, the irony was apparent. One house was totally engulfed in flames. But a death notice hanging on a wooden fence in front of the house survived. "With great sorrow, we announce the death of Reuven Keiner." Smoke still wafted from the stone house, now entirely blackened by the blaze. Wandering through the house, everything was in ruins. Slices of life up in smoke. But there, hanging on a storeroom door was an old, broad felt hat, hanging there as if nothing had happened.

Carmel fire 41210 David Bachar1
David Bachar

The fire caught up with Ein Hod early yesterday morning. When we got there, the village was still enveloped in smoke and fire. Planes from around the world overhead were just another element of a scene from "Apocalypse Now." We reached Ein Hod from the main road, Highway 4, in a car driven by Josh Cohen, a wonderful graphic artist from Ein Hod who had not slept for three nights.

As we approached the land on fire, Josh prepared us for what was in store.

"This morning, I saw there were about 10 houses that were badly damaged, but it's not over," he said. "The airplanes are winning during the day, and at night the fire comes and is victorious, leaving ruins."

Suddenly his cell phone rang. "Your house is absolutely okay," he assured the caller. "Noa'leh said 10 homes are gone. I counted almost 10. Hagai's house was totally burned." The voice on the other end said: "I collapsed. They ran tests on me. Looks to me like a heart attack. Your house didn't burn? I left my tobacco at your place."

Gnarled and sooty trees rested on the ground. A bronze lion roared at the entrance to a house that was totally consumed. Fire was still burning in what looked like was a bookshelf. Several large stones from the house had been thrust out by the heat.

On a nearby village bus stop, a notice read: "Next Hanukkah, we won't just light candles. We'll also collect clothes and toys that will be donated to the children's center." Some twist of fate.

Josh's children are staying with relatives in Ein Carmel. A giant Ilyushin aircraft flew just above our heads, diving into the depths of the conflagration. Huge flames rose from the valley. Rows of aircraft stormed through one after the other. Planes from Bulgaria and Greece. Huge aircraft from France and Russia. They dived, dropped their loads and soared off, like some kind of magnificent air show. But the fire remained, shifting back and forth with the shifting winds.

A firefighter on the scene talked about his son nearby, working as a volunteer firefighter. "He grew up with firefighting at home and he's caught the bug," he said. "The truth is, I'm not ashamed of my work. I'm proud of it, but I would wish him another way of life. But if that's how he wants to contribute, it won't make me sorry."

The valley was painted a powerful yellow and black. Flame retardant dropped from the airplanes turned it white for a moment. But just a moment. The fleet of aircraft made one last sortie and then darkness came. And with it ill winds.