kkl north fire 248 88.
(photo credit: )
A wave of fires swept wildly across northern Israel yesterday, July 1, destroying more than one thousand dunam (250 acres or 100 hectares) of forest and natural woodlands. In Biriya Forest near Safed, some 1,000 dunams of planted forests and natural woodlands were burnt. Within 30 minutes, trees which KKL-JNF had planted to rejuvenate woodlands destroyed during the Second Lebanon War had been burnt down.
According to a check by KKL-JNF and Israel Defense Force (IDF) teams, it seems that the fires in Biriya Forest were caused by persons cutting metal with an electric cutter and, because of yesterday's heat wave, the sparks quickly spread throughout the forest.
"The flames lept up the mountain and within a short space of time, a large area of Biriya Forest was burning," recounted Aviram Tzuk, KKL-JNF director of Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights district. "The fierce winds which swept the region fanned the fires lasting for hours." The fires were put out late afternoon, but not before they destroyed hundreds dunam of forest. Soldiers, who noticed a civilian at the scene, reported the incident to KKL-JNF and fire fighting teams were rushed to the site where they fought for hours to extinguish the flames. Because of the thick smoke and fears that spreading fire dozens of residents were evacuated from their homes and only several hours later were allowed to return.
Because of the many foci of fire - more than 100 of them that day - all fire fighting units in northern Israel were mobilized. KKL-JNF teams, fire fighting units in northern Israel at risk to their lives and with the Nature preserve authority and fire-fighting plains, strived continuously for 24 hours to put out the fires.
"We feel very bad about it. This is the blackest of black days. These were huge blazes, the likes of which we have not experienced since the Second Lebanon War," said Tzuk. "In Biriya Forest, a plot that we had already rehabilitated after the war was destroyed along with another large area." Aviram Tzuk believes arson to be the cause of many of the large fires that broke out in the area yesterday, noting that there has been a recent jump in the number of forest fires in the area. "The causes are different. There are firebugs who simply enjoy lighting fires, while others are caused by disputes over grazing lands and other sources," he explains.
Tzuk adds that plant and wild life have also been injured in the area. "Large animals can flee but there are many other kinds of species, like reptiles, which become extinct in such fires. Yesterday I saw in the southern area of Biriya Forest dozens of fleeing tortoises. These creatures now lack grazing space and places of refuge exposed by the fires."
Forest fires roundup
Biriya Forest - some 1,000 dunam burnt. KKL-JNF teams together with firefighting units and fire fighting planes managed by late afternoon to control the fire and put it out. A KKL-JNF team is still at the site and two fire engines have been placed on alert.
Nebi Yusha - Some 200 dunam of natural woodlands have been destroyed to date. KKL-JNF teams and fire fighting units were in control of the fire, but it rekindled during the night and KKL-JNF teams have been dispatched to the scene.
Yuvalim Forest, Western Galilee- Some 120 dunams of forest were destroyed. Six KKL-JNF teams, fire firefighting units and fire fighting planes are operating at the site.
Foresters' Forest, Karmiel - A fire broke out last night and was extinguished. Dozens of dunams were destroyed. Additional fires raged also in Nahal Amud, Safed Forest, Ben Ami, Iron, and Gilon Forest near the town of Karmiel. Five foci of fire broke out in the Wadi Ara region: Metzer Forest, Menashe Forest, Um-el-Fahm Forest, Barta'a and Usafiya.
Apart from the damage to the ecology and landscape, fires are an economic blow to forests. Their rehabilitation costs thousands of shekels; let alone the sky high costs involved in putting out the fires due, in part, to the deployment of fire fighting planes in areas which are inaccessible to fire fighting vehicles. KKL-JNF teams are presently involved in creating a barrier between the burnt and undamaged areas, fearing that the fires can flare up again in areas where they were put out. Consequently, also today all teams have been placed on heat wave alert and we hope that the fires have been stopped.
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