Hundreds of firefighters protest in light of southern terror fires

Firefighters call for resignation of commissioner Dedi Simchi.

Firefighters strike over working conditions in Tel Aviv, August 6, 2018 (Courtesy)
Hundreds of firefighters from all over the country blocked major roads as they demonstrated against Fire and Rescue Services commissioner Brig.- Gen. Dedi Simchi, in a demonstration held in front of the Tel Aviv Government Complex on Monday morning.
The firefighters are protesting “severe damage to their working conditions, in view of the harsh reality of their ongoing activities in the past year, primarily the war on terror kites in the South.” The Central Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor Backed by chairman of the Histadrut Hamao”f (the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor) Union Arnon Bar-David, the firefighters are demanding that Simchi uphold the collective labor agreements signed when he took office a year and a half ago, and put an end to the “abuse and intimidation against the firefighters.”
Avi Ankori, chairman of the Firefighters Association, said: “Dedi Simchi is trying to burn the fire department, and his judgment may cost the lives of firefighters and [other] human beings!” Ankori accused Simchi of disrespecting and destroying a system that was built up over many years.
“He violates signed labor agreements while trying to forcefully transform a civilian organization into a military organization,” Ankori told The Jerusalem Post.
Ankori, a firefighter from Haifa, has worked for the department for the past 25 years. He told the Post that, for example, the commissioner has given the order that fire trucks must stop at red lights like the rest of the traffic.
“So I am already announcing that if we are late to save lives, I apologize to the citizens of Israel. They should turn to Dedi Simchi because he is the one not allowing us to go through red lights because he is afraid there will be an accident and the vehicle will be damaged and it will cost him money.”
“Citizens of Israel should be concerned that the commissioner is lowering the number of firefighters at the major stations to below the redline in order to reinforce the southern region,” he said, adding that this could lead to a dangerous situation during emergencies in residential areas. He also warned that maltreatment of the firefighters could lead to a collapse of the system. “We will not rest until the safety of the firefighters and the citizens of Israel is ensured,” Ankori said.
In January, more than 2,000 firefighters signed a no-confidence letter demanding Simchi’s resignation.
Simchi, 53, was appointed to the position in March 2017. He previously served as Home Front Command chief of staff and its Southern District commander, National School of Search and Rescue commander and the IDF’s military attaché to China.
The firefighters’ concerns with their working situation have been exacerbated in the past four months since Palestinians in Gaza began the phenomenon of launching incendiary kites and balloons into Israeli communities close to the border.
The Fire and Rescue Services has recorded more than 1,300 fires over the past four months from incendiary devices sent from Gaza, which in turn have scorched 3,000 hectares (about 7,500 acres) of land.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.