(May 26, 2019 / JNS) Israel’s National Fire and Rescue Authority announced on Saturday night that it had succeeded in containing the massive rash of fires which ripped through the country in recent days, causing the evacuation of 3,500 people, the destruction of dozens of homes and more than 500 acres of woodlands.
A whopping 1,023 fires were extinguished over the past three days by approximately 1,000 firefighters and 300 volunteers.
Though help arrived from Egypt, Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus in the form of 120 aerial missions, the town of Mevo Modi’im in the Ben Shemen Forest was almost completely destroyed, and Kibbutz Harel lost 10 buildings.
Some of the blazes, including the one which consumed Mevo Modi’im, began on the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer, which is marked by the lighting of bonfires. Additionally, a powerful heat wave hit Israel, raising temperatures by as much as 20 degrees in some locations, and drying out brush and grasses.
An unknown number of fires, however, are believed to have been set intentionally, including a raging blaze that broke out Friday in the northern Jordan Valley and ultimately burned all the way into neighboring Jordan.
Some of the fires were attributed to incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip, launched despite a pledge by Hamas to end the practice as part of a ceasefire with Israel, while other fires were blamed on electrical problems.
On Saturday, 3-year-old Elad Prizat was killed and 14 others injured when a fire broke out in a fifth-floor apartment in Tzfat. The cause of the fire has not been determined.