Jerusalem battles all-day arson attacks

ByMELANIE LIDMAN
June 24, 2012 16:15

Largest fire erupts near Ora and Aminaday suburbs; authorities attribute over 200 Jerusalem fires in past 2 weeks to arson.

Israeli firefighter

Israeli firefighter 370. (photo credit:REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen)

Jerusalem fire crews worked nonstop on Sunday, fighting a number of large fires, many of which they believe were arson attacks.

The largest forest fire on Sunday was near the Jerusalem suburbs of Ora and Aminadav, which drew nine fire crews from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh. Police evacuated five homes in Aminadav and there was damage to a storage unit, but no injuries.



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Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Asaf Abras said firefighters were able to control the fire within a few hours because they immediately decided to bring in firefighting planes. Abras said firefighters are not sure whether the blaze was intentionally set.

Around 7:30 a.m. on Sunday five fire crews responded to heavy smoke coming from the wadi next to the American Consulate in the Arnona neighborhood. Later on Sunday afternoon, four crews responded to a blaze next to Highway 9 near the French Hill neighborhood. While they were dealing with that fire, they received reports of six small fires in the wadi next to the Hebrew University.


Abras said the fires next to the consulate and the university “followed the same pattern of arson that we’ve seen” in the past few weeks.

Jerusalem has been experiencing a wave of arson attacks in open areas, originally concentrated around Arnona in southeast Jerusalem. Recently it has moved to the forests in northeast Jerusalem as well. According to Abras, in the past two weeks there have been more than 200 fires in open areas that firefighters consider arson. There have been more than 2,000 arson attacks in the past month-and-a-half.

In an average year, Jerusalem fire and rescue workers respond to 8,000 fire-related incidents, of which 4,000 are fires in open areas, fields or forests.

Jerusalem police arrested two Jewish teenagers from southeast Jerusalem two weeks ago in connection with the arson attacks, but the fires have continued unabated, leading police to believe there could be a larger group involved.

Each fire crew usually uses about 3,000 liters of water per fire, Abras said. Arson attacks this summer are said to be costing the Fire and Rescue Services astronomical amounts.

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