Int'l aid arrives to help battle Carmel fires

Obama: "The United States is acting to help our Israeli friends respond to the disaster...Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in Israel."

December 3, 2010 09:24
2 minute read.
Firefighters battle Carmel blaze

Carmel Firefighters 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

The first of 23 international aircraft carrying firefighters, supplies and fire retardant chemicals landed at the Ramat David Israel Air Force base in the North early Friday morning.

The Greek plane, the first of five which are expected from the country, brought much needed fire retardant supplies and additional firefighting forces who will join Israeli fire crews battling the uncontrolled Carmel forest fire. According to Army Radio, in addition to the four Greek aircraft, four aircraft are expected to arrive from France, three from Britain, two from Spain, two from Russia, two from Turkey, two from Cypress, two from Bulgaria, one from Croatia and one from Azerbaijan.

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US President Barack Obama on Thursday offered his condolences to the victims and families affected by the uncontrolled fire.

"As rescuers and firefighters continue in their work, the United States is acting to help our Israeli friends respond to the disaster," Obama said at a reception celebrating the second night of Hanukka.

"A short while ago, our ambassador in Tel Aviv, Jim Cunningham, issued a disaster declaration, which has launched an effort across the US government to identify the firefighting assistance we have available and provide it to Israel as quickly as possible. Of course, that's what friends do for each other."

Obama continued, "Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in Israel who is affected by this tragedy and the family and loved ones of those in harm’s way."

 A 747 loaded with the fire retardant chemical needed to stop the raging Carmel forest fires left the United States for Israel Thursday night, thanks to New York City Mayor Bloomberg, Israeli Acting Consul General Ido Aharoni, members of the FDNY and Tom Harbour, the Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the US Forestry Service.

Bloomberg called Israel’s Acting Consul General in New York Ido Aharoni Thursday afternoon to convey New York City's strong support for Israel Thursday afternoon, Bloomberg's spokesperson Stu Loeser said.

Bloomberg asked if New York could help Israel with its fires. Bloomberg mentioned in the call that  FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano had had a meeting scheduled for Friday with Israel's Deputy Minister of Defense, Matan Vilnai and two aides. Vilnai is in charge of Homeland Defense including natural disasters and terrorist/hostile military events against the civilian population.  However, the Friday meeting had been cancelled due to Vilnai's return to Israel.

Aharoni thanked Bloomberg and requested Fire Troll 931, a flame retardant Israel needs to combat the fires. At Bloomberg's request, Deputy Fire Commissioner Francis X. Gribbon immediately called the Acting Counsel General back, ascertained that the fire retardant Israel needs is not one that the FDNY uses in New York, and had the FDNY reach out to the United States Forestry Service, which does use Fire Troll 931 to fight forest fires.

After a conference call between Harbour and Aharoni late Thursday afternoon, Harbour told FDNY Deputy Commissioner Gribbon that the plane loaded with Fire Troll 931 will leave for Israel tonight.

Egypt has also offered to assist in firefighting efforts by supplying fire extinguishing chemicals, according to the IDF Spokesperson.

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