Firefighters gain control of all blazes in Carmel area

After 77 hours, authorities announce that all major blazes have been contained, will be put out before nightfall; police count 20 arson attempts elsewhere in North.

December 5, 2010 18:07
3 minute read.
Zaka members locating remains after Carmel fires

311_zaka in fire aftermath. (photo credit: Aharon Baruch Leibovitch)

The Carmel fires have finally been contained, firefighting authorities announced Sunday evening.

"Our news for this evening is control," fire official Boaz Rakia told reporters at nightfall Sunday. "The fire department has declared that the fire is under control." He added that the small fires are still burning in some places.

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He said that most of the thousands of Israelis evacuated from their homes would be allowed to return.

"From our point of view, the danger has passed for all the places that were evacuated," Rakia said. The sole exception, he said, was Kibbutz Beit Oren, located in the heart of the fire zone, where extensive fire damage would prevent residents from immediately returning.

Magen David Adom officials also announced that 33 individuals suffering from fire-related injuries were evacuated to area hospitals during the three-day blaze. Three of the wounded suffered from serious injuries, three were moderately hurt and the rest were lightly wounded.

Earlier on Sunday afternoon the Police announced that all major fires in the North were contained as of 4:30 p.m. The announcement came 77 hours after firefighters began their efforts to contain the effort.

"There are no large fire sites at this time, just small ones that are being tackled [by firefighters]," the Police spokesperson's office said in a statement released Sunday afternoon.

At sundown on Sunday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Associated Press that there have been 20 arson attempts in other forests over the past 48 hours, and four people have been arrested.

All the foreign firefighting planes are expected to stay in Israel until tomorrow to ensure that the blaze has been put out, Israel Radio reported Sunday evening.

Earlier on Sunday afternoon, a police officer from Cyprus working to fight the fire in the Carmel told The Jerusalem Post that 80% of the blaze has been contained as police announced that residents of Nir Etzion, Ein Hod and Ein Chud can return to their homes.

Public Security Minister Aharonovitch also updated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday afternoon saying, "we are approaching the end; there is almost full control over the fires."

In addition, the Israel Police helicopter observation unit reported earlier on Sunday that there were no longer any large fires in the Carmel region. The report said that only small fires remained scattered throughout the area, all of which were being tackled by firefighters. Three helicopters from Switzerland also landed in the area on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday morning, Fire Chief Shimon Romah told Army Radio that the Carmel Mountain Range blaze was under better control. While saying that this was the best state the fire-fighting teams had found themselves in since the blaze began on Thursday, he added that only cautious optimism should be exercised as fires still burned.

The road between Beit Oren to Prison 6 remained closed to civilian traffic. Its use was reserved for emergency vehicles only. All other routes were reopened. Police forces were scanning Yemin Orde in order to determine if it could be reopened. Nir Etzion and Beit Oren remained closed to residents.

In a statement on Sunday morning, Firefighters Spokesperson Boaz Rakia, said that although there was a hope that the fires would be under control by Sunday night, it would still be a number of days before all the fires were put out. The Carmel blaze has scorched over 12,000 acres (50,000 dunams), killed 41 people and injured scores.

More than thirty fire-fighting aircraft resumed operations early on Sunday morning, and prepared to drop fire-fighting materials and water on the four remaining areas of fire in Israel's North.  Among the aircraft was the Evergreen Supertanker aircraft that landed in Israel overnight.

Yaakov Lappin, Benjamin Hartman and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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