Of the 41 people killed in the giant blaze that began in the Carmel Mountain Range on Thursday, 36 were guards on their way to Damun Penitentiary to help with its evacuation, and were killed when the fast-moving fire engulfed their bus in flames.

The guards were participating in a new officers’ training course that started this year, which received specialized training in order to improve prisoner treatment and become directors in the prison system.

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The course started on October 17 and was supposed to conclude in March 2011. The students were expected to be the next generation of leaders in the prison services.

Eight funerals were held on Friday afternoon. Cmdr. Eli Gabizon, commander of the Southern District prison guards, was in charge of 13 of the guards on the bus tried to attend as many funerals as possible on Friday. “We were like a family and they were all my children, it’s really hard,” Gabizon told Israel Radio.

“But we will grow from this. It’s a strong organization, and it will support us. But we’ve taken a huge blow today and it’s so painful “The families ask hard questions. But they know this was their work, and we had to do it. Many times I went to a family to comfort them and it ended up that the families were comforting me,” Gabizon added.

Family and friends remembered their loved ones as they tried to grapple with the senseless tragedy.

“We couldn’t have expected this, we’re still trying to understand it and believe it,” a family friend of Hagai Zolo, 28, from Kiryat Gat, told the media on Friday.

“He always did the best for everyone,” she added.

“We heard on the news that there was a bus of guards that was on fire, and we called and called and called him, but he didn’t answer,” said the brother of Ronen Pereg, 34. Pereg, also killed, was the father of two.

Hundreds gathered in Yavne on Friday to bid farewell to Maor Ganon, 27, another Prison Service cadet.

Haim Furman, a friend of Ganon who was at the funeral, described it as a send-off fitting a hero, with a 21-gun salute and representatives from the Prisons Service and Israeli rescue services coming to pay their respects.

Furman said friends and relatives described Ganon as “the rock of his family, the sibling who can always be counted on.” Furman added that family described him as “ambitious, determined, and focused” and asked time and again, who will they count on now to do the things that Ganon could always be depended on to do.

His loved ones said it was his dream to serve his country as an officer of the Prison Service.

Ganon leaves behind his wife, Sivan, and three-year-old daughter, Hila.

On Saturday night, forensics experts had identified all of the 41 victims. Many of the victims were so badly burned that experts had to use dental records and DNA to identify the victims. Forty of the bodies were held at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute while awaiting identification. Families of the victims were being hosted by families in the North.

Among the victims of the fire were Ch.-Supt. Yitzhak Melina, 46, and the Northern District’s Operations Branch manager Asst.-Cmdr. Lior Boker, 57, from Pardess Hanna, and firefighter Uri Semande’ev, 27, from Migdal Ha’emek.

Prison services identified the victims on the bus: Rami Israeli from Eilat, 33, married with two children; Dimitry Koslov, 45, of Beersheba, married with a child; Vladislav Rahamimov, 30, of Beersheba; Wassim Abu Rish, 28, from Yarka, married and a father of two; Topaz Even Chen Klein, 28, from Rehovot; Beber Shabi, 35, from Kfar Jat, married and a father of one; Kfir Ohana, 30, from Ofakim, married and a father of one; Siyum Tzagi, 31, Netivot, married and a father of three; Yakir Swissa, 26, from Dimona; Oshrat Pinto, 26, from Safed; Hagai Jorno, 28, from Kiryat Gat; Adel Tafesh, 33, from Beit Jan; Eran Weisel, 31, from Kiryat Bialik; Yaron Barmi, 21, from Mabu’im, married and a father of a two-year-old girl, his wife is four months pregnant; Shimon Dayan, 28, from Carmiel, married; Dimitry Gerstein, 27, from Tel Aviv; Hagai Panker, 31, from Yeruham; Tania Lansky, 23, from Ashkelon; Ayala Yifrah, 23, from Eilat; Kiryl Derman, 28, from Afula; and Adel Tafesh, 33, from Beit Jan, married and father of two; Aviram Levy, 28, from Afula, married and a father of one; Morris Levy, 32, from Tiberias; Hanen Ohayun, 31, from Nazareth Illit, married and a father of two; Ayas Najib Sarhan, 30, from Kfar Mrar, married and a father of one; Inbal Amoyal, 26, from Dimona; Ayala Langerman, 31, from Nahariya, married; Avi Noah, 34, from Jerusalem, married and a father of two; Ronen Peretz, 34, from Ashkelon, married and a father of two; Deputy Warden Rafi Alkalai, 44, from Lapid, married and a father of five; Deputy Warden Fabiola Bohadna, 48, from Ness Ziona, a mother of two; Warden Uriel Malka, 32, from Karnei Shomron; David Navon, 48, from Ness Ziona, the driver of the bus; Elad Riven, 16, from Haifa, a volunteer firefighter.

Ben Hartman, Yaakov Lappin, and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.