(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
On Wednesday, June 27, smoke could still be seen smoldering in forests around Jerusalem, where a series of fires broke out on Tuesday. The first fire broke out at the entrance to Jerusalem, near Motza, and spread to Arazim Valley, which is a part of the new Jerusalem Metropolitan Park being developed by KKL-JNF and various government agencies. Another fire broke out near Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hahamisha. The fire began at about 1 P.M., and parts of Route 1, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, were closed due to the heavy smoke and flames. The road was closed for a number of hours, causing major traffic jams. Jerusalem police and fire fighters say they suspect arson was the cause of both fires.
Fire fighters from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, along with KKL-JNF personnel, were the first to arrive on the scene when the fires broke out. At the peak of the fires, there were a total of 48 fire fighting teams from all over the country at both locations. Police and fire fighters had planned to evacuate hundreds of residents of nearby Mevasseret Tziyon, but the fire was brought under control before the evacuation was deemed necessary. All told, about 300 dunams of natural woodland went up in flames, including 200 dunams in the Arazim Valley. By 4:30 PM., the fire was brought under control and Route 1 was reopened. A number of teams were left on duty in the burned areas through the night.
The blaze occurred a week after State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss had issued a report criticizing various government ministries over their lack of preparedness for the Carmel Forest fire that broke out in December 2010.
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