A fire in a Jerusalem apartment building Sunday afternoon ended without
casualties but highlighted the problems facing rescue teams in the
The fire started around 5 p.m in an apartment on Jaffa Road near
the entrance to the city. The first on the scene were police and security forces
who had been called to an incident on the Jerusalem Light Rail, which runs
across the road from the building.
An eyewitness, who gave his name as
Ya’acov, said he accompanied the police as they rushed to the building when they
noticed the flames from the balcony on the top floor of the 12-story
building. Due to the code-operated entrance lock, the police could not
immediately enter the apartment building and first had to break the door using
the butts of their guns.
Once inside, according to Ya’acov, they raced up
to the top floor where they found three older women, an approximately
eight-year-old boy “and even a pet bird which we rescued” in the smoke-filled
apartment. They then went from door to door, checking that nobody was left
inside the building. Ya’acov said they tried to break into an apartment where
they heard a dog barking but were unable to get inside.
As they came down
the stairs, they heard the sound of glass shattering due to the heat. Other
eyewitnesses who work in nearby stores also heard the glass
Fire engines arrived swiftly on the scene but the first few
trucks seemed unable to reach the height at which the fire broke out. A ladder
raised by one of the many trucks stretched up about half the height of the
building before being retracted.
After a few more minutes, a fire engine
with a ladder managed to reach the top floor of the building. Its pipe was
initially directed at the adjacent Mevo Yerushaliyim building but was soon
adjusted onto the balcony from where smoke was still billowing.
while, a large crowd gathered outside the building including local residents,
staff in nearby workplaces, tourists and people on their way to and from the
nearby Central Bus Station, some thinking it was a movie being filmed and others
thinking it might be an emergency drill.
The light rail continued
operating while firefighters tackled the blaze, but one rescue worker admitted
to The Jerusalem Post
that had the fire been on the same side as the light rail
tracks, the overhead cables would have severely hampered their
According to the rescue worker, in such a situation they would have
been unable to raise any ladders without cutting off electricity to the entire
area, which would have stopped the trains and all the traffic lights at the
major junctions on that stretch of Jaffa Road.
Residents were able to
return to their apartments immediately after firefighters had the fire under
control around 6 p.m.
Fire and Rescue Services have opened an
investigation into the cause of the fire.
Firefighters throughout the
country will be on high alert for the Lag Ba’omer festival later this week, when
it is customary to celebrate the holiday around bonfires.Melanie Lidman
contributed to this report.