PMO: Gov't improved fire resources after serious neglect

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
August 14, 2011 22:28

In response to State Comptroller's Carmel Fire report draft Prime Minister's Office says Netanyahu brought in planes that aided firefighters.

2 minute read.



State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss

311_Micha Lindenstrauss. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

In a statement Sunday evening, the Prime Minister's Office said that they had received a draft copy of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's extensive report into the Carmel Fire, and would respond to it accordingly.

"It should be pointed out that the current government allocated more resources to the firefighting services after decades of neglect, well before the Carmel Fire," a PMO statment said.

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"Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu brought in airplanes that greatly aided the firefighters in the Carmel, as the State Comptroller's report points out," the statement continued. "After the fire, assisted by his ministers, the prime minister led the development of an aerial firefighting service which has already proved itself by extinguishing 70 fires including the large fire in the Jerusalem forest which threatened to burn Yad Vashem."

The report was sent to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aronovich.

Another source said that the draft report criticizes Ministers Yishai, Steinitz and Aronovich and Netanyahu for ignoring problems even though they had enough time to realize that the fire services were not able to deal with large fires.

Finance Minister Steinitz admitted in his testimony to the State Comptroller that he had not supported providing firefighters with additional budget until they committed to reforms. Those reforms included the creation of a national firefighting force.

Sources said that the report also mentions a dispute with KKL-JNF regarding how funding for firefighters is allocated. KKL-JNF firefighters also battled the Carmel Fire.

Although he was not included among those who received a copy of the draft report, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is also expected to face criticism and sources said the report includes a full chapter about the functioning of the Defense Ministry. 

In a statement on Sunday, the State Comptroller's office specifically referred to a previous report on the Second Lebanon War which criticized the Defense Ministry to point out that the State Comptroller has repeatedly warned of the dangers of failing to extinguish fires.

Fire services and police are also directly criticized, sources said. The draft report includes details of low level decision-making, including that firefighters did not have enough flame retardant foam to extinguish the fire, and that some firefighters had been at a conference when the fire broke out in the Carmel and arrived four hours too late.

However, sources who read the draft report said on Sunday that the State Comptroller has barely made any mention of the functioning of the Finance Ministry.

According to the State Comptroller's office, all audited bodies are expected to respond to those sections of the report dealing with their particular role in the fire within thirty days, after which the final report will be published. However, some of those asked to respond are expected to ask for an extension.


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