'Firefighters given just 13% of promised budget'

Aharonovitch says J'lem blaze could have reached scale of Carmel Fire, cautions against complacency following Comptroller Report.

Israeli firefighter 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen)
Israeli firefighter 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen)
Israel's firefighting services have been given only NIS 40 million out of the NIS 300 million it was promised, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beytenu) said Wednesday according to Army Radio.
Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee, Aharonovitch addressed Tuesday's massive fire that broke out in the surrounding enclaves of Jerusalem. "Yesterday we dealt with a fire that had the potential of reaching the scale of the Carmel Fire, and we dealt with it well," he said.
Smoldering trees
Battling the flames
A firefighter in Jerusalem
Firefighting planes
Traffic from the fire
Fire truck
The Carmel Fire, which erupted in December 2010, resulted in the deaths of 44 people and caused widespread damage to land and property, totaling millions of shekels. An estimated 1.5 million trees were destroyed and more than 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of land were burned. Last week, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss issued a scathing report criticizing various government ministries over their ill preparedness regarding the Carmel fire.
"We cannot, following the [State Comptroller's] Report, allow ourselves to reach the situation we were in before the [Carmel] disaster," Aharonovitch said.
After months of battling arson in forests around Jerusalem, an exhausted firefighting force dealt with the largest blaze yet at the entrance to the capital on Tuesday, when a series of fires raged through the valley next to Highway 1.
Forty-six firefighting crews from Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and around the country were called in to battle the fire, which started around 1 p.m. Three people were lightly injured from smoke inhalation at the beginning of the fire, but there were no other injuries.
Firefighters received commendations from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for their quick response to the blaze, though opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) called on the Knesset to immediately implement the findings from the State Comptroller’s Report.
“Allow the firefighters to do what they’re good at: saving lives, not begging the finance minister to determine their fate,” she said in a statement released by her office.
Yaakov Lappin and Melanie Lidman contributed to this report