Many improvements have been instituted to fire rescue services in the past six years, following the Carmel forest fire in 2010 in which 44 people died, according to Brig.- Gen. (ret.) Meir Elran, senior researcher and director of the home front program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
Elran spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday about the lessons learned from the Mount Carmel fire – in which most of those killed were Prison Service guards on their way to evacuate a prison – and the changes made to fire rescue services in its wake.
“We are still in the midst of the [current] event, and so we can’t really reach conclusions yet because it can still develop in so many different ways,” Elran noted.
With regards to the 2010 Carmel fire, he said that the main damage was the massive loss of human life, but that as a result of the tragic incident, there have been many changes to fire rescue services.
“From this bitter event we have seen positive change,” he said.
Most notably is the establishment of a National Fire Authority under the jurisdiction of the Public Security Ministry.
Prior to its establishment, fire services operated individually according to municipality, rather than as one unified, national force.
He noted that this reform has “significantly improved” the preparedness of the sector with regards to manpower, resources and professionalism.
Since its founding, there has been an influx of some 300 new firefighters, an additional 30 positions in the fire commission, as well as the acquisition of some 90 new firetrucks, according to the Israel Fire and Rescue Services site.
In addition, 22 special rescue units were established, as was an aerial firefighting unit with eight aircraft, under the command of the Air Force.
Elran said that one of the main problems with the Carmel forest fire was the lack of cooperation between police and fire rescue services. But today, he noted, “so far, it seems that the cooperation between the two [forces] is tighter and more effective, and I hope that it will also be more beneficial.”
Earlier this year, then Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner Shahar Ayalon said Israel is the safest country in the world in terms of fire fatalities.
Speaking in February at a discussion of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, Ayalon said that only nine people died in fires in 2015, a significant drop from the 70 who died in 2010.
The committee met to discuss a Jewish National Fund plan to spend NIS 250 million creating “burn areas” between forests and around 450 residential areas in Israel, one of the recommendations of the critical State Comptroller’s Report issued following the Carmel fire that has yet to be implemented.