Wildfires expected across Israel amid extreme heatwave

The temperatures across the country will stand between 35° Celsius (95° Fahrenheit) and 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit) for a period of several days.

A helicopter drops water on a wind driven wildfire. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A helicopter drops water on a wind driven wildfire.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is on high alert as wildfires are expected across the country due to abnormally high temperatures, Israel Fire and Rescue Services (IFRS) Commissioner Dedi Simchi said Friday morning.

According to Simchi, starting this weekend, a heatwave is expected to hit the country, with extremely high temperatures and low humidity. The IFRS' Elad aerial firefighting squadron will be on operational alert. Israel Police's helicopters will also be used to fight the flames.

"I call upon hikers to show responsibility and refrain from lighting fires in open areas and parks in the coming days due to the danger of wildfires spreading rapidly," Simchi said. "We shall promote a fire-safe environment and protect nature, which we all cherish."

According to IRFS' spokesperson, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) will join the services in preventing and putting out wildfires, using drones and observation posts.

The services also called upon the public to refrain from any maintenance activity in open areas which involves blowtorches, such as welding, and any activity that might create sparks.

The Health Ministry issued a warning, calling upon the public to remain indoors and use AC units, while those who do not own such a unit were advised to keep to public places where AC units are installed.

According to the ministry, the temperatures across the country will stand between 35° Celsius (95° Fahrenheit) and 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit) for a period of several days. The public has been advised to drink large amounts of water and avoid temperatures higher than 25°C (77°F).

In the past year, wildfires broke out at least four times in Israel due to extreme weather, with aerial firefighting planes deployed to combat the flames. In August 2019, thousands of acres were destroyed by fires in rural areas near Jerusalem, with dozens of housing units lost to the blaze.

With experts warning about the impact of global warming, 2020 began with large-scale wildfires in Australia. Zoe Thomas, a research fellow at the University of New South Wales told Reuters in February climate change was causing an "irreversible" mass melting of Antarctic ice. Record-high temperatures were reported on the South Pole in February, standing at 18.3°C (65°F).

"This will gradually displace people as it goes," Thomas said. "We know this is already happening in small island communities... it will just continue to happen gradually as more and more houses are being inundated at high tide, then at normal tide and then even at low tide."

A decrease in pollution was reported amid the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 with NASA recording a 30% decrease in air pollution over the northeast coast for March 2020 compared to March averages from 2015 to 2019. The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) reported a 54% drop in pollution levels in Paris.