Bet Shemesh fires 'probably arson'

Over 30,000 trees damaged in worst fires since Lebanon war.

June 30, 2010 20:17
1 minute read.
Fire in Gamla

Fire in Gamla 311. (photo credit: Osnat Eitan)

Firefighters are continuing an investigation into several large blazes which broke out in the Bet Shemesh area on Tuesday, and are leaning towards the theory that they were the work of an arsonist. Tuesday’s fires, which burned down around 30,000 trees and damaged around 3,000 dunams, were the worst fire-related incident in the country since the Second Lebanon War.

“The general direction of our investigation is focusing on arson,” a Bet Shemesh firefighters spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “Our people are still out on the ground. But we don’t have conclusive findings yet. We expect to have that on Thursday morning,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the investigation had been hampered by an additional fire which broke out on Wednesday. A bus on Route 6 caught fire in the Best Shemesh area, setting fire to a field. Fire crews and a plane were dispatched to the scene to put out the blaze. No injuries or damages were reported.

4 firefighters hurt in major blazes
Firefighters stop Beit Shemesh blaze

Earlier on Wednesday, Cmdr. (ret.). Dan Ronen, former head of the police northern district, told the Post that police forensics officers would be playing a vital role in the investigation should firefighters conclude that foul play was involved.

“Firefighters only take part in the initial investigation to locate the source of the fire. When arson is suspected, police forensic officers are called to the scene, and they bring back samples to a special arson lab for analysis,” Ronen explained.

In other cases, police may get involved if intelligence emerges suggesting arsonists were involved, Ronen said. Addressing the Bet Shemesh blaze, Ronen said its size meant that “arson cannot be ruled out,” but added that many large fires were caused by negligent campers.

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