On the frontline, firefighters battle against nation-wide disaster

“The wind is ridiculous up here. It is very strong, that is what makes this fight hard.”

November 24, 2016 19:04
1 minute read.
Fires near Jerusalem.

Fire near Jerusalem. . (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

As hundreds of fire-fighters spread out to battle the wildfires raging in Haifa, Modi’in, Rishon Lezion and many other locations, a sense of existential emergency has begun to emerge. Among fire-fighters, rhetoric has been transformed from talk of fighting flames to that of fighting a battle.

“We are at war,” Haifa Fire Service spokesman Uri Chibutro told Maariv. “It is very important to listen to all the personnel. At the moment the fire is not under control, and I advise everyone to listen to rescue teams and emergency instructions.”

In the Haifa area on Thursday, more than 700 police officers were deployed and were busy assisting residents and fire-fighters.

Meanwhile, at the Rishonim junction near Rishon Lezion, seven teams of fire-fighters fought to slow the advance of an approaching blaze, to prevent it from reaching a nearby gas station and warehouses.

Near the entrance to the village of Nataf, west of Jerusalem, exhausted fire-fighters took a short break on Thursday morning as the flames there – which had earlier destroyed two homes – were largely extinguished.

“The wind is ridiculous up here. It is very strong, that is what makes this fight hard,” said one fire-fighter who declined to state his name. “I have no idea when this will be over. I hope soon.”

Above the hillsides, specially equipped airplanes dropped retardant on smoldering areas and remaining flames.

In Haifa, some fire-fighters said they were under direct attack from arsonists.

“I know for a fact that they deliberately tried to set fire to the department’s station in Haifa to cause the Haifa fire department to be paralyzed,” Shimon Ben Ner, a senior Haifa fire-fighter, told Army Radio.

Before heading off to another blaze at yet one more location, fire-fighters in Nataf expressed appreciation for the help and coordination of the local community, as well as for assistance that had arrived from Britain, Croatia, Russia, Greece, Turkey and others.

While they did not delve into the issue of arson, the fire-fighters were adamant about one thing, “What we need the most is rain,” something forecasters are not predicting anytime soon.

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