'Firefighting plane could have come to Israel sooner'

Representative of US aircraft company said he offered to send "Super Tanker" to Israel on first day of fire; PMO denies gov't initially refused.

December 14, 2010 17:51
2 minute read.
AN IDF soldier watches the firefighting operation

Carmel Firefighting Plane 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

An Israeli representative of the US "Evergreen" company that owns firefighting aircraft announced that already on the first day of the outbreak of the Carmel fire, he turned to the Israeli Foreign Ministry to offer help and claims that he was turned away.

Yoram Gavron said, "They told me they do not work with private companies."

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Gavron then claimed he heard that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered his military secretary to find information about the aircraft on Google long after his initial offer to send Israel the "Super Tanker," one of the world's largest fire extinguishing planes.

The plane only arrived the weekend following the outbreak of the fire, after the government submitted an order to the US company asking for the aircraft.

Gavron told Israel Radio that if the transfer of the plane did not linger on approval from the government, the plane's arrival, the damage in the Carmel would have been smaller.

The "Super Tanker" crew still remains in Israel and is expected to return to the US Wednesday.

The Prime Minister's Office denied the accusations that the government had initially  refused to rent the company's Super Tanker firefighting aircraft.

"The prime minister's military secretary, Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker, who found out about the plane, made the prime minister aware of its existence on the first day of the fire, Thursday evening. Netanyahu instructed Locker to order the plane and, in fact, contact was made with EverGreen, the firefighting plane's owner, on Thursday night at 10:00 PM.," a statement from the PMO said.

In related news, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus accepted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's request on Tuesday to investigate the Carmel Fire. Netanyahu made the request in a meeting he convened in his office of the ministerial committee on governmental oversight, which is headed by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.

Netanyahu's office said Lindenstraus would submit his report to the government as soon as possible within the next four months. The ministerial committee gave relevant government ministries three months to report to Lindenstraus about changes they were making to fix problems and inadequacies that were revealed in his report last week about the deficiencies in Israel's fire service.The Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday was discussing the possibility of establishing a state inquiry into the events surrounding last week's fatal Carmel fires.

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