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Israel's hot summer season has begun with almost daily fire outbreaks in open spaces. KKL-JNF rangers across Israel are on heightened alert to fight fires and prevent them from spreading.
As part of its boosted preparedness, KKL-JNF has mobilized fire-fighting engines and fire fighting teams and deployed a network of watch towers around forests and near settlements throughout Israel. Fire-fighting teams have been trained and information materials distributed to the general public explaining the rules of fire safety to be observed in forests and open areas.
KKL-JNF will invest over ten million shekels this year to battle fires in open spaces and forests. One million shekels will finance aerial fire-fighting and almost three million will purchase KKL-JNF's latest forest adapted fire-fighting engines.
KKL-JNF's fire prevention and fire-fighting activities have been enabled thanks to contributions of its Friends worldwide, particularly from America, England, Latin America and Switzerland to acquire new fire-engines and establish and maintain forest watch towers. KKL-JNF recently boosted its countrywide fire-fighting deployment against summer fires to include 37 manned fire lookout towers, dozens of fire alert manpower and 24 special fire-fighting engines throughout forested areas.
A National Fire Danger Rating System uses data supplied by the Israeli Meteorological Service on fire intensity, temperature, wind velocity and direction. With the help of this data and its analysis, it is possible to forecast threatened fire outbreaks and their spread to any given area and to deploy KKL-JNF's fire fighting force accordingly.
We spoke to Eitan Hadani, KKL-JNF fire control coordinator in the northern district, about the forest rangers' work during the summer season. "Nearly every day here we experience a fire outbreak in open spaces. The six newest fire engines added to our fire fighting operation in our region, together with the fire-fighting airplanes greatly improve our fire fighting capability."
There are several reasons why fires break out in open areas in this part of the country, Hadani informs us. "In some instances we suspect that fires are caused deliberately by arsonists although in others, they are caused by negligent recreationers who leave smoldering camp fires in the woodlands where they have stayed. Furthermore, in some cases, fires are caused by battling shepherds who may burn down structures deliberately: for example, huge blazes recently engulfed the Misgav area as a result of these wars. Yet another cause of fire is the uncontrolled burning of huge deposits of refuse at illegal garbage dumps in the area."
A dry winter also influences the incidence of summer fires, continued Eitan. "This year was an exceptional winter in terms of the rainfall patterns. Not only was there insufficient rainfall but the rains that did fall came intermittently, stimulating tall and very dense vegetative growth which in summertime dries up completely, catches fire easily and causes fires to spread rapidly."
The many fires that now occur in open areas are typical at the beginning of the summer season, adds Hadani. "Generally, at the start of the warm weather, between May and June, there is a sharp rise in the number of fires, a rise that gradually levels - although there are periods when the number of fires increases, depending on the weather and easterly winds."
Because of the numerous fires a pilot program is being held jointly for KKL-JNF and the Western Galilee fire-fighting services. KKL-JNF's innovative forest fire-fighting engines will be operated by these services as the need arises. In this way manpower and equipment can be retained in a state of readiness around the clock to better prevent the spread of fires.