Four wildfires contained near Beit Shemesh

Fire Department spokesman blames hot weather, combined with dry brush left from the winter.

firefighters 88 (photo credit: )
firefighters 88
(photo credit: )
With airplanes swooping down from above and assisting firefighters already on the ground, the Beit Shemesh Fire Department successfully put out four wildfires in the hilly area southwest of Jerusalem on Wednesday. "All the fires were put out within five to six hours using our regular firefighters and airplanes that sprayed the area with water," said a fire department spokesman. Neither firefighters nor civilians sustained any injuries, and there were no reports of damage to homes in the area. An agricultural field at Kibbutz Tzora was damaged, but the fire department head refused to comment on how much damage had been sustained. While an official explanation of the source of the fires has yet to be given, the Beit Shemesh spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that he suspected natural causes. "Everything in the area is completely dried out," the spokesman said. "The hot weather, combined with dry brush left from the winter - which saw very little rainfall - can lead us to expect a very dangerous summer. Here it is late April, and we're already seeing wildfires." Still, a Nature and Parks Authority spokesman told the Post on Wednesday that while fires in national parks can cause significant damage to plants and wildlife, there have not been more blazes than usual for this time of year. "I wouldn't say there are more fires than usual right now, but the weather conditions are very conducive at the moment. It's hot, which dries out the grasses, and it's windy, which can help a fire spread," said Omri Gal. "It's also the middle of Pessah, and there are many people grilling food and building campfires. Most fires are manmade - though not necessarily intentional - rather than from the sun," he added. Gal also said that environmental damage to flora and potentially to fauna caught in the blaze was considerable. However, he noted that the issue was somewhat controversial because some believe fires help the land rejuvenate. "In Australia, they light fires intentionally," he pointed out. He said he did not think forest fires represented a significant source of air pollution.