(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
At this stage, it is estimated that 150 dunams (about 15 acres) of forest went up in flames. KKL-JNF teams will be making a more detailed assessment of damage caused by the fire over the next few days. The rapid deployment of KKL-JNF's fire trucks and the resourcefulness of its workers prevented a much larger conflagration. The huge forest fire spread in the direction of the Pi Glilot natural gas storage facility and the Har Nof neighborhood. Fire planes went into action and streets in the region were closed to traffic. The fire was fanned by strong winds and the summer heat, and the flames reached the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, which had to be evacuated.
Eli Ya'akov, KKL-JNF Jerusalem Bloc forester, said that three KKL-JNF fire trucks and about forty KKL-JNF workers participated in stopping the fire. One of the fire trucks participating in the firefighting effort was purchased thanks to a contribution of friends of KKL-JNF from the United States. By 9:00 PM, the fire had been only partially contained, so one fire truck and a number of KKL-JNF firefighters, together with a supervisor and KKL-JNF regional director Hanoch Zoref, spent the night in the forest to make certain that the fire would not re-erupt.
According to Ya'akov, in spite of the strong winds, the fire was contained relatively quickly, partially thanks to the fact that the fire was on the ground rather than in the tree tops, in contrast to the huge December 2010 Carmel forest fire. The Jerusalem Forest is well maintained, its trees are not overly dense, and it doesn't have a lot of flammable dry brush.
A preliminary investigation conducted by Moshe Pinto and Dudu Barak from the Tourism and Ceremonies Department of KKL-JNF's
Resources and Development Division found that the recreation areas built in the forest with the help of friends of KKL-JNF from around the world were not damaged by the fire, although they were covered by the retardants that were used to extinguish the fire. Due to the large amount of smoke and conditions in the field, not all of the forest is accessible as of yet, and a more in-depth survey of the various KKL-JNF projects in the Jerusalem Forest will have to wait until conditions on the ground make it possible.
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