Wildfires break out across Israel for 2nd day

11 lightly injured at Maasiyahu prison after fire at wood working factory spread out of control.

April 28, 2013 17:39
2 minute read.
Hundreds affected by latest heat wave in Lag Ba'omer festivities in Meron.

Heat wave 370. (photo credit: Courtesy, Magen David Adom)


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Wildfires broke out across Israel for the second day in a row on Sunday, as unseasonably hot weather and heavy winds sent firefighters scrambling to battle blazes throughout the day.

At Ma’asiyahu Prison in central Israel, 11 people were lightly injured from smoke inhalation, including seven guards, an inmate and three firefighters, after a fire at a woodworking factory in the compound spread out of control.

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Dozens of fire teams and police swarmed to the scene to battle the blaze, which spread to the prison grounds.

By mid-afternoon, Shfela subdistrict police said the fire was under control and denied reports they were preparing to evacuate prisoners from the facility. The smoke inhalation casualties were taken to Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tzrifin for treatment.

Also in the Shfela region, firefighters evacuated a resident of Moshav Rambam due to a grass fire, and battled another brush blaze in nearby Karmei Yosef.

In the Sharon subdistrict, firefighters fought blazes at Poleg Beach, Even Yehuda junction and in Rosh Ha’ayin.

The Rosh Ha’ayin fire came the day after a massive fire at a car-parts warehouse in the area that dozens of crews fought for hours before managing to extinguish it.

Other fires broke out in the northern and southern districts of the country, with most of the blazes in open areas being blamed on the harsh weather conditions.

Yoram Levy, spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Services, said that since Saturday firefighters have responded to more than 550 calls, at least five times the usual for a 24- hour period.

Levy said that while the two most dangerous fires so far – in Ma’asiyahu Prison and in Rosh Ha’ayin last night – were not caused by the weather, the public should avoid building bonfires altogether if possible.

The plea was made despite it coinciding with Lag Ba’omer, which began on Saturday evening and is celebrated by lighting bonfires, typically by young people in parks. Levy called on those who do hold bonfires to make them as small as possible, not to leave them unattended and to make sure to extinguish them fully before leaving their sites.

In Jerusalem, some 200 residents of Kfar Uriya were evacuated at 2 a.m. on Sunday after a forest fire spread from Lag Ba’omer celebrations near Beit Shemesh, according to Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Asaf Abras.

“We received assistance from nearly 20 units from central and southern Israel to help us put it out, but it was difficult [to extinguish] due to the dry conditions,” said Abras. “We were finally able to allow residents to return safely to their homes Sunday morning at around 6 a.m.”

Abras said wildfires also broke out in the Jerusalem Forest, Ramot, Har Nof and Moshav Beit Zayit, resulting in the destruction of roughly 2,000 dunams of vegetation.

Additionally, a brush fire in East Talpiot resulted in nine vehicles in the UN building’s parking catching fire.

“Over the last 24 hours we’ve been dealing with a lot of small and big fires because of people not being responsible while observing Lag Ba’omer near brush and forest,” Abras said.

He added that although all the blazes have since been extinguished, firefighters have remained on call to ensure continued public safety during pos-tholiday celebrations.

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