At the end of an exhausting week battling fires on the Mount Carmel range, Galilee firefighters labored Wednesday night and throughout the day Thursday to fight fires caused by Katyusha rockets, implementing their special emergency plans for the first time.
As tensions escalated Wednesday evening along the Lebanese border, Galilee fire services announced the enactment of a special crisis plan that was formulated three years ago. Senior fire and rescue officers concluded that should such a Hizbullah assault occur, there would be a large risk of fires that would erupt simultaneously in multiple locations, and that they would not have enough manpower to confront all of the blazes. On Thursday, their fears were proven true - but fortunately, fire officials said, the planning was also correct.
Fire departments across the Galilee entered emergency alert on Wednesday night, and started to implement an order that called for firefighters from the center of the country to be sent to the North to reinforce teams. Fifty-five firefighters from the Dan region and 70 firefighter officer cadets were sent from their training courses to battle the dozens of fires that raged where Katyushas fell.
Most of the blazes were brush fires in open areas, but fires were also sparked in residential areas in Nahariya, Kibbutz Kabri and Shlomi. A particularly large fire blazed in the Mount Meron Nature Reserve, where dozens of firefighters under Gen. Danny Hananiya, as well as eight firefighting planes, battled the blaze throughout the day, but faced difficulty combating the blazes.
One officer said that fellow officers had to forcibly remove firefighters who had labored for long hours but were unwilling to stop their efforts, despite being in danger of dehydration and clinical exhaustion.
Haifa, fire officials said, was a different story. The city's volatile combination of oil refineries, ammonia pools and heavy industry make it a potent recipe for massive blazes. Local firefighters are issued special equipment and training for hazardous materials, but they also say that they may be assisted by the factory employees themselves.
Dozens of employees at Haifa factories have taken a firefighters' course, and factories with dangerous chemicals have miniature fire stations manned by emergency response teams of factory workers. "If a factory gets hit, I am sure that it will remain localized," one officer from the Haifa fire department said.