Israeli Fire and Rescue Service plane 150.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel has not done enough to increase the country’s aerial firefighting
capabilities, in spite of the growing threat of wildfires, the State
Comptroller’s Report stated on Wednesday.
The report slammed officials
for not carrying out the directive issued by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
to do so, especially in light of the many rockets and missiles pointed at both
the North and the South, which could lead to widespread blazes.
section of the report detailing the founding of an aerial firefighting
capability in Israel, the report said that “as clear as the need has been over
the years to strengthen the air firefighting system in Israel, recommendations
made by the prime minister to make such changes have not been carried
The report – a continuation of the June 2012 Comptroller’s Report
on the Carmel fire that detailed glaring failures by Israel’s governmental
leadership, as well as police and rescue services – added that since the
government made the decision in 2002 to cancel the use of IDF helicopters in
aerial firefighting, “not only has the capability to fight wildfires from the
air not improved, the ability has weakened, and no meaningful changes have been
Additionally, an aerial firefighting unit founded by the Israel
Air Force in May 2011 did not undergo extensive operational examinations by the
IAF to gauge its ability to be effectively deployed in event of a wildfire, the
In terms of commanders of the national Fire and Rescue
Services, the report said that “in spite of the threat caused to the home front
by future wars, which will include wildfires that break out in a number of
different areas, commanders did not carry out situational assessments that took
into effect the threats faced.”
The report said that the inadequate
response to the issue both before and after the Carmel Fire is against the
backdrop of a rising wildfire threat in recent years, due to the rocket threat
posed by Hezbollah in the North and Gaza-based terror groups, whose rockets and
missiles can set off wildfires when they land in Israel.
Comptroller’s Report focused on the period in early 2011 after the December 2010
Carmel fire, when Netanyahu called for the founding of an aerial firefighting
During the Carmel fire, which burned from December 2 to 6,
the Fire and Rescue Services was exposed as lacking not only an aerial
component, but also up-to-date land-based firefighting equipment. In the end,
Israel had to ask for assistance from over 20 countries, which sent
firefighters, planes and other gear to assist in putting out the blaze. Most
notably, Israel rented the world’s largest firefighting plane from an
Arizona-based company, a converted Boeing 747 called the “Supertanker” that was
rushed to Israel to help put out the flames.
The report stated that over
the years the relevant authorities did not carry out significant examinations of
the possible threats posed to the home front by wildfires, and did not put the
necessary conditions into place to enable an aerial firefighting
The report found that after Netanyahu tasked the Public
Security Ministry and the IAF with developing greater firefighting capabilities
in the wake of the wildfire, the IAF lacked professional know-how about aerial
firefighting and did not present their findings or recommendations to the IDF or
the Defense Ministry.
Across the board, the report stated that the
different government bodies charged with handling the issue did not collaborate
adequately with one another – and that Israel remains without even an adequate
short-term aerial firefighting capability to handle firefighters until a
permanent system can be deployed, a process that is expected to take
The report also mentioned how shortly after the Carmel fire,
Netanyahu tasked Defense Minister Ehud Barak with building the capabilities and
gave him a 14-day deadline to come up with a proposal.
The IDF then
proposed buying six Bombardier CL-415 firefighting planes at a cost of tens of
millions of dollars each, as well as paying NIS 80 million to lease three older
Bombardier CL- 215 planes, the report stated.
According to the report,
Netanyahu took the recommendations to the Canadian government and requested
their help brokering the deal, but was told the purchase couldn’t go through
because the Canadians did not have enough planes in stock. After the deal fell
through, the IAF recommended Israel purchase lighter, cheaper Air- Tractor
planes, which cost only a fraction of the price.
According to the State
Comptroller’s Report, it was only the accidental lack of stock of CL-415 planes
in Canada that saved an unnecessary expenditure of many millions of shekels.