Bet Shemesh fires 'probably arson'

Over 30,000 trees damaged in worst fires since Lebanon war.

Fire in Gamla 311 (photo credit: Osnat Eitan)
Fire in Gamla 311
(photo credit: Osnat Eitan)
Firefighters are continuing an investigation into several large blazeswhich broke out in the Bet Shemesh area on Tuesday, and are leaningtowards the theory that they were the work of an arsonist. Tuesday’sfires, which burned down around 30,000 trees and damaged around 3,000dunams, were the worst fire-related incident in the country since theSecond Lebanon War.
“The general direction of our investigation is focusing on arson,” aBet Shemesh firefighters spokesman told The Jerusalem Poston Wednesday. “Our people are still out on the ground. But wedon’t have conclusive findings yet. We expect to have that on Thursdaymorning,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman added that the investigation had been hampered by anadditional fire which broke out on Wednesday. A bus on Route 6 caughtfire in the Best Shemesh area, setting fire to a field. Fire crews anda plane were dispatched to the scene to put out the blaze. No injuriesor damages were reported.
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Earlier on Wednesday, Cmdr. (ret.). Dan Ronen, former head of thepolice northern district, told the Post that policeforensics officers would be playing a vital role in the investigationshould firefighters conclude that foul play was involved.
“Firefighters only take part in the initial investigation to locate thesource of the fire. When arson is suspected, police forensic officersare called to the scene, and they bring back samples to a special arsonlab for analysis,” Ronen explained.
In other cases, police may get involved if intelligence emergessuggesting arsonists were involved, Ronen said. Addressing the BetShemesh blaze, Ronen said its size meant that “arson cannot be ruledout,” but added that many large fires were caused by negligent campers.