State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss highlighted “severe failures” in the way
fire authorities handled the 2010 Carmel fire disaster, in a long awaited and
devastating report made public Wednesday.
In an examination which lasted
nearly a year and a half, Lindenstrauss focused on first day of fire, from the
hours before its breakout to the time that flames engulfed a bus carrying dozens
of Prisons Service cadets en route to evacuate a prison, killing nearly everyone
Lindenstrauss found systemic failures at every stage of the
fire’s first day, writing that firefighting authorities “showed up as the
weakest link in the emergency services in Israel.”
“The failures found in
the Carmel fire disaster point to a recurring trend and the inability to learn
past lessons,” the comptroller said.
“The Fire and Rescue Services were
found to be unprepared for unusual incidents, it did not go on stand-by as
required, lacks an organizational culture of unified command and control, is not
trained enough and is not skilled in managing complex scenes. It lacks the tools
and means to command and control forces in these incidents,” the report
Lindenstrauss noted the hot dry weather conditions that prevailed
in December 2010, which “should have caused fire authorities to be extra alert
and carry out preventative steps.” Those steps should have included increasing
the number of fire vehicles at fire stations, placing fire planes on standby and
receiving a live feed of changing weather conditions.
None of those steps
were taken, and in fact, the report found, the Fire and Rescue Services did not
regulate its information feed from the Meteorological Service.
authorities in Haifa and Hadera, the jurisdictions where the Carmel disaster
broke out, did not hold fire risk evaluations before the disaster
Lindenstrauss did stress that “firefighters and their
commanders exhibited much bravery while dealing with the fire... and risked
their lives,” but went on to slam the way both local fire authorities and the
national Fire and Rescue Services managed the event.
“In a complex
incident... management skills and command and control are also needed. Their
absence stood out on the day of the fire clearly, at both the national and local
levels,” he wrote.
The report slammed former commissioner Shimon Romah
for not acting to ensure that the service is prepared for unusual emergencies,
as well as the head of the Haifa fire service, Aryeh Rehev, and the head of the
Hadera fire service, Issachar Tohai, for failing to operate command and control
Lindenstrauss identified flaws in the setting up of
control rooms, their operations and the way local fire forces built up pictures
of events, held evaluations and made decisions on how to engage the
As a result, firefighting efforts were disorganized, not
systematic and lacked safety means for fire crews. The report also slammed the
Fire and Rescue Services for failing to create a fleet of fire planes and
lacking a supply of fire retardants.
“Those responsible must do
comprehensive house checks to ensure that the organization can fulfill its
duties as stipulated by law,” the report added.
Responding to the report,
the new Fire Rescue and Services commissioner Shahar Ayalon said “This report
must be fully learned and its recommendations must be applied
“We must act on the assumption that the next incident is
round the corner. As far as I’m concerned, this is a working plan of the Fire
Services for the coming years,” he added.
At the same time, sources at
the Fire and Rescue Services say its organization is in much better shape today
than it was in December 2010.
“We still need firefighters and more
stations so that response times will be no longer than 11 minutes in all of
Israel. We believe the quicker the response time, the quicker a fire can be
controlled and its damages limited,” the sources said.
Since the Carmel
fire disaster, 300 new firefighters have been recruited, a fleet of eight fire
planes has been assembled and 1600 fire retardants are in stock. A national
control room exists at the Fire and Rescue Service’s Rishon Lezion headquarters.
Eight fire stations have been built and 89 trucks have been purchased.