'Hundreds of millions missing from fire 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)
Just 40 million shekels out of an expected 300m. cash injection has so far made it to the Fire and Rescue Service, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told the Knesset on Wednesday.

Speaking to the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, the minister said firefighters were supposed to have received the full sum this year, warning that any further delay could be tragic.“We had a fire yesterday that could have developed to the size of the Carmel fire,” he sad referring to the blaze which closed off Route 1 on Tuesday. “After the state comptroller’s report [which contained devastating critiques about the state of the fire service], we must not go back to the stage we were at before the disaster,” he added. Firefighters have already received an additional 400m. shekel since the disaster, he noted.Aharonovitch also said that Tuesday’s fire was most likely the work of arsonists. “These things are being investigated. I estimate that it’s arson, but it’s still being checked,” he added. The minister said firefighters in the Jerusalem area have had to deal with hundreds of arson incidents in recent months in the Jerusalem area, adding that some of the fires were an act of “spontaneous” terrorism by Palestinians.“You don’t need an organization to set fire to any particular forest,” he added.