A couple from Beit Shemesh were questioned by police on Tuesday on suspicion of lighting a barbecue that sparked a forest fire outside Safed , forcing a partial evacuation of tourists and hikers from the area.
Northern District police said Tuesday that police and fire investigators are still investigating the case, and that couple is suspected of negligence. The fire tore through a large section of the Biriya Forest, but firefighters were able to establish control of the blaze by late Monday.
A spokesman for the district said that the couple told investigators that the wind suddenly picked up and their fire began to spread, and that they tried to put it out using water and all other means at their disposal. When that failed they called the fire department. At no point did they try to leave the scene and they offered to help however they could, but are still being investigated on suspicion of negligence, the spokesman said.
Police said no one was trapped by the fire and no personal property was damaged.
Negligence is also suspected of being a factor in a number of wildfires on Tuesday, including a grass fire that scorched hundreds of acres outside Shlomi in the western Galilee. Police and firefighters deployed helicopters and other aircraft to fight the blaze, which also damaged a power line, causing electrical failures in the area.
The combination of especially hot, dry weather and very large numbers of people at Israel’s parks and nature areas has dramatically increased the threat of wild fires during the Passover holiday.