‘Home front unprepared if fire breaks out during war’

“This could turn into a major weak spot for the country,” official says. “We have limited resources and will not be able to be everywhere at once.”

By
December 7, 2010 02:50
2 minute read.
A fire-fighting plane

plane carmel fire. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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The IDF Home Front Command began the inquiry phase of its participation in the battle to extinguish the Carmel Forest fire since Thursday amid concern within the defense establishment regarding what will happen if a fire of a similar scale breaks out during a war.

On Sunday, the Border Police went on high alert in northern Israel as well as around Jerusalem, worried that Palestinians or even Israeli-Arabs might try to set fires throughout the country.

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Since last week, seven people have been arrested for allegedly trying to start forest fires.

“Imagine that in a future war, as missiles are landing in our cities we will face a forest fire like the scale of the Carmel forest fire,” one defense official said on Monday.

According to Israeli intelligence assessments, during a future war with Hizbullah, the group will be able to fire several hundred missiles and rockets daily into Israel, some of them with the capability of hitting main population centers like Tel Aviv.



If that happens, the fear is that almost all of Israel’s emergency services will be preoccupied with rescue and relief efforts inside the cities and little resources will be left for combating forest fires.

During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, while rockets landed frequently in cities in the North, particularly in Haifa, they also landed in fields and forests, burning down some 15,000 dunams (1,500 hectares). At the time, planes were sent to Europe to bring back fire-retardant materials to extinguish the raging forest fires raging.

“This could turn into a major weak spot for the country,” the official said. “We have limited resources and will not be able to be everywhere at once.”

In the meantime, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i is also probing the performance of the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Administration and the coordination among the various emergency services that participated in battling the blaze in the North.

The results will be presented to Defense Minister Ehud Barak by the end of the week.

Meanwhile on Monday, MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) warned that the next “weak link” in the Israeli home front was the shortage in gas masks for the general population. In June, The Jerusalem Post revealed that the IDF lacks 40 percent of the number of gas masks required to complete the distribution of the kits to the entire Israeli public.

“The Carmel disaster proves that there are other weak links in Israeli home front defenses,” said Shai, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “Four out of 10 Israelis will be left without gas masks, and already now it is obvious that at the last minute everyone will look for spare masks and they might not find any.”

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