KKL-JNF Western Negev firefighters try on the special moisture-proof t-shirts from JNF USA.
(photo credit: DENNIS ZINN/KKL-JNF)
Tuesday, August 14, 2018 - It was the second day of quiet on the border with Gaza in the Western Negev, and battle-weary KKL-JNF firefighters were making use of the time to rest and prepare for another possible round of forest fires. They were encouraged by the news that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was considering easing the punitive restrictions imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip due to the recent heavy rocket attacks and massive incendiary kite and balloon protests.
KKL-JNF Western Negev Regional Director Danny Ben-David said that the test would be on the coming Friday after the Muslim midday prayers.
“There are already calls for a huge Palestinian protest along the border on Friday. However, it may be the start of a new period of calm for the region if Hamas manages to prevent violence and the launching of incendiary material towards Israel.”
The firefighters who had all assembled at the KKL-JNF watchtower at Kibbutz Beeri were keen to send their greetings and thanks to JNF USA for their new green moisture-wicking T-shirts that identified them as KKL-JNF firefighters. They said that after a long, intensive shift near burning heat the T-shirts provided a welcome alternative to their heavy flame resistant fire gear.
Over the last 4 months, KKL-JNF firefighters have had to deal with 1160 forest and brush fires, most of which were ignited by combustible kites and balloons that were launched from Gaza. Some 3000 acres of dense forest between Beeri and Kissufim were destroyed. In total, over 10,000 acres of forest, farmland, and nature reserves went up in flames. On some days, up to 15 fires raged simultaneously and KKL-JNF reinforcements and their 4x4 firefighting trucks were bought over from around the country.
Senior KKL-JNF Firefighter Moshe Baruchi said that years of bitter experience along the border makes him skeptical that the threat is over. He said that if it were not for the tenacity and dedication of the KKL-JNF firefighters, the damage would have been much greater than it was.
“The kite and balloon terror was a new phenomenon which created new challenges. We realized that once an incendiary device landed, time was of the, and for that reason we concentrated on detection and quick mobility of our forces. I think we did well.”
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