Fires in North consume hundreds of dunams of trees

Golan blazes apparently sparked by IDF artillery shells.

Fire in Gamla 311 (photo credit: Osnat Eitan)
Fire in Gamla 311
(photo credit: Osnat Eitan)
Twenty-five fires ravaged through forests and fields Thursday in the Gamla Nature Reserve in the southern Golan and other regions of the North, including Zichron Yaakov and Karmiel.
Several fire crews and planes were mobilized by the the Fire and Rescue Services to tackle the blazes.
Fire and Rescue Commissioner Shimon Romach said the fires in the Golan were likely sparked by an IDF artillery round fired during an exercise.
“Residents of the area are not in danger,” Romach said on Thursday afternoon. “Hot winds are blowing the fires in all directions, and this is what is keeping the flames going. But by the end of the day, all fires will be under control, if not doused.”
Hundreds of dunams were swept clear of vegetation by the fire, Eitan Nissim, deputy head of the Golan Region at the Nature and Parks Authority, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
The Gamla Nature Reserve is a favorite nesting spot for eagles and their nests were likely destroyed in the flames. However, Nissim said the eagles “would find other places to nest.
“However, at one point, the fire threatened a cage with 15 birds in it, so we evacuated all of the birds,” he said.
Nissim estimated that the vegetation near the stream would grow backquickly, while other trees would take at least a year to grow back.
Since the fire seems to have been started during an IDF exercise, Nissim was less willing to be forgiving.
“If a fire like this occurred once in a while from natural causes, wewould be philosophical about it, but it’s another story if it wascaused by humans and not nature,” he declared.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan ordered the Nature andParks Authority to file a complaint with the Israel Police as to thecause of the fire.
He also called on IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi toinvestigate whether the IDF was responsible by failing to adhere to NPAwarnings about conducting exercises in sensitive areas during a heatwave.