Burnt Trees and Charred Earth in Jerusalem’s Arazim Valley.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Wildfires are a constant threat to Israel’s forests and open spaces, and on Lag Baomer, the holiday when children make bonfires outdoors, the danger increases.
Gidi Bashan, the KKL-JNF Community and Forest Coordinator for the Jerusalem and surrounds region
, was the first to notice the fire in Jerusalem Park's Arazim Valley and report it. “I was called to Jerusalem for another forest fire, and on my way there I saw big clouds of smoke rising from the valley,” he said.
Tens of KKL-JNF workers and three KKL-JNF fire trucks joined forces with Israel’s Fire Department in an effort to suppress the wildfire. They battled the blazes for many hours. Residents of the Ramot neighborhood in Jerusalem, and people in the town of Mevasseret Zion, were evacuated from their homes because of the danger.
Hanoch Tzoref, KKL-JNF Highland Region Director, was among the fire fighters in the vicinity of the Ramot neighborhood. “The fire spread right up to the edge of the houses. The firebreak constructed in the forest by KKL-JNF a few years ago was what saved the neighborhood,” he said.
By the time the fire was under control, hundreds of dunams of planted forest and natural woodland had gone up in flames. The vegetation and the wildlife living in the forest took a severe blow. Fortunately, however, thanks to the swift action of the fire fighters, no people were harmed, and no infrastructure was damaged.
The 9/11 memorial site
, which was constructed by KKL-JNF with support from its friends in the USA to commemorate the victims of the terror attack in 2001, was unharmed. Bashan, who had been working in the area during the fire, said “The fire spread around the memorial site and the nearby recreation area, but it bypassed them and didn’t damage them. It seems to me like some kind of a miracle.”
Bashan noted that we have been seeing more forest fires in recent years and greater damage caused by them. “The reasons for this phenomenon include deliberate arson, the negligence of hikers and the successful afforestation and greater density of Israel’s forests,” he explained.
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