Carmel fire plane 311 AP.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
When members of F.I.R.S.T, a volunteer search and rescue team, heard news on
Thursday that brushfires were spreading rapidly throughout the forests of the
Carmel mountain range they immediately rushed into action. Within hours, some 80
volunteers had assembled on the scene in full gear ready to offer their
They did so, like they always do, despite having only limited
“Our volunteers have basic insurance but it doesn’t cover
operations like rappelling or scuba diving,” Avi Bachar, the head of F.I.R.S.T,
said on Saturday. “Our guys are hooked; they don’t care if there’s insurance or
not, they just want to rescue lives.
“But we’re looking for complementary
insurance to provide them with peace of mind, should – heaven forbid – anything
happen to them.”
F.I.R.S.T, which stands for First Israeli Search and
Rescue Team, has some 500 volunteers spread out in units across the country,
from the Golan Heights in the north to Ein Gedi and the Negev region in the
south. Throughout the year, they rescue hundreds of stranded hikers from deep
ravines or steep precipices. They also have a group of volunteer scuba divers,
ready to assist in searching for bodies trapped underwater.
lose their way and we get them out,” Bachar said. “You hear about our work in
the news all the time.”
In addition, the group also offers its help
overseas. Its members were recently involved in searches in parts of the
world like Sudan and Chad.
Back at the Carmel forest fire, F.I.R.S.T
members helped in locating the body of a missing youth who had perished in the
flames. But when it became apparent that the main effort was in containing the
blaze and there were few people who needed rescuing, they were released by
authorities. Still, Bachar said his organization was ready to offer help
wherever and whenever needed.
While the members of F.I.R.S.T and others
like them risk their lives to save others, thousands of volunteers from across
Israel have volunteered since Thursday in less hazardous ways.
resident Matan, 30, was with friends in the north on Thursday when he heard a
call for help, asking volunteers with 4 x 4 trucks to come to Keren Ma’ara to
provide logistic help for the rescue effort.
“When I got there I saw
hundreds of people from all over Israel, many of whom had responded after seeing
a message on Facebook. Immediately they asked for people able to take in
displaced people or animals to sign up, and we did. The next day, me and many of
the others drove around Israel collecting food donations to take to the
operations sites to hand out to rescue personnel.”
When asked why he had
volunteered, Matan scoffed at the question.
“What, it’s not a shame to
lose the Carmel? I was born in Haifa, I’m a gardener, I love green and I love
nature. It’s very sad, there’s nowhere else like the Carmel in Israel.”