Tel Dan nature reserve torched in suspected arson

tel dan 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
tel dan 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Half of the Tel Dan nature reserve was torched on Saturday night in what firefighters and Nature and Parks Authority officials strongly suspect was a case of arson. Repeated flare-ups continued to trouble the firemen into Sunday, and the reserve was temporarily closed to visitors. A spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Services told The Jerusalem Post Sunday night that they strongly suspected arson and had passed on that conclusion to the police. An initial investigation revealed that the fire had been started in two separate places inside the nature reserve and past the firebreaks that the Nature and Parks Authority had set up to prevent natural fires from spreading into the reserve from outside. This led investigators to consider arson. Moreover, the lock on the back gate to the reserve, which serves as the entrance for cars and where fire trucks would enter, was jammed, making investigators even more suspicious. The gates are closed at 1 p.m. every day, and it is believed that whoever jammed them did so after that time. The fact that the fire spread to the treetops and that a strong wind was blowing made it difficult to put the blaze out, the authority said. As soon as the fire was spotted, firefighting forces rushed to the scene, including helicopters. Besides the foliage, various wooden structures were also burned, including a 15-year-old bridge erected to provide access to the site for the disabled. Despite the extensive damage, the authority hopes to reopen the site later this week. "This is one of the most important and beautiful nature reserves in Israel," Nature and Parks Authority director-general Eli Amitai said in a statement. "On Wednesday, the authority's administration will meet at the reserve and assess the damage to foliage and infrastructure to determine how to rehabilitate it. "The fact that the reserve has a lot of water is encouraging because it should make rehabilitating the site easier, and I believe the site will already reopen to visitors this week," he said, "I have no idea who would want to deliberately damage someplace so beautiful, but if it is in fact arson, we will do our utmost to get the perpetrators." The small Tel Dan reserve (481 dunams) runs alongside the Dan River in the Golan, one of the main sources of the Jordan River. In addition to an idyllic scenic route, the site also houses the remains of the Canaanite city of Lish, which was destroyed by the Dan tribe in the time of the Judges.