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Police: Carmel fire was act of negligence, not arson
By YAAKOV LAPPIN AND JPOST.COM STAFF
04/12/2010
Cops clarify that smaller fires may have been started by suspected arsonists, including Tivon and Kiryat Bialik blazes.
 
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post Saturday, the evaluation that negligence caused the Carmel fire was an initial and not a final conclusion. Rosenfeld added that the initial evaluation was based on an analysis of the area identified as being the fire's source.

At a press conference earlier Saturday, the Hof police sub-district head Deputy Commander Roni Attias said that the fire was caused by the negligence of a family in the Carmel area. He said they are currently busy investigating, but "know what the incident was."

Police said they were close to identifying the family. Channel 10 reported that it was suspected that the fire started from a nargilla water-pipe.

On Friday, Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen that two arson suspects arrested earlier in the day are not linked to the main fire on the Carmel Mountain.

Cohen said that investigators have determined that the large fire, which is raging in the Carmel, spread from a single ignition point. He added that the cause of the fire would be determined by Saturday.

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The police inspector-general said that there were, however, a number of suspected arson attacks in the North, but that the cause of the large Carmel fire was still unknown.

Police have said that additional fires in Kiryat Bialik and Tivon were both caused by arson.

A separate wildfire was reported Friday afternoon in a field near Route 70, in the southern Carmel mountains near Bat Shlomo (south of Haifa). Route 70 was closed to traffic in both directions.

Earlier on Friday, police found a bike, and a wig inside a bag near a fire center in Tzur Shalom, leading them to believe that the fire was caused by an arsonist or arsonists.

Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the Post that there are 3 fire centers - Tzur Shalom, the Atlit - Tirat Hacarmel area, and the Carmel hillsides. In one, Tzur Shalom, north of Haifa, "we located suspicious items pointing to arson. As for the other two major fires, it is too early and the incidents are too large in scale to know their causes at this stage." The death toll in the fires rose to 42 on Friday, according to Army Radio.

Galillee police were spread out over the area searching for suspects. Members of the public who see suspicious activity should call 100 immediately.

A firefighter spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that Haifa is no longer in danger from the brush fires.

The fire is now focused on the Carmel hillsides and the Atlit region of Route 4, the spokesman stated.

" We won't put this out by today but we are aiming to significantly weaken the fire by sunset," he added.

The spokeman's statement came as northern Israel was in a state of emergency as the worst ever fire in the country's history incinerated a bus carrying dozens of members of the Israel Prisons Service, killing everyone on board, destroying thousands upon thousands of dunams of forests on the Carmel Mountain ridge and injuring dozens.

By early Friday afternoon, fire had spread to new areas in the Carmel despite the efforts of firefighters who were aided by the first foreign firefighting aircraft which arrived to help control the blaze.
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