'Fire service failures continued after Carmel'

Lindenstrauss says in Carmel fire report that fire services guilty of major infractions in first half of 2011.

FIREFIGHTER stands outside an apartment building fire (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
FIREFIGHTER stands outside an apartment building fire
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
In addition to examining what went wrong during the December 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire disaster, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss looked at how fire authorities functioned in the first half of 2011.
His report contains a damning list of failures.
The comptroller found that many fire stations did not carry out training sessions as specified by instructions from the Fire and Rescue Services, and not all firefighters took part in training sessions that were held.
Even fire stations situated in areas that have high-rise building areas, train stations and industrial areas failed to train for scenarios involving the unique challenges of their regions.
The national firefighting school in Rishon Lezion failed to run any of the three courses set by the Fire and Rescue Services in 2005. The school has no set training staff, and it relies on staff recruited in an adhoc fashion, the report added.
As of January 2011, nine of out 24 fire station commanders were not qualified firefighters, and were selected via an external tender, after internal tenders failed to find suitable candidates.
Forty one percent of firefighters are age 40 or over, and no examination of their physical fitness or ability to meet mission is in place.
Lindenstrauss also found that operational fire vehicles went out for non-mission related reasons, such as shopping trips on 1,600 occasions between January 2010 and March 2011.
“This phenomenon is especially prevalent in fire stations in Ashkelon, Beersheba, the Western Galilee and Haifa,” he wrote.
In 34% of 10,000 incidents classed as very dangerous, only one fire crew was dispatched to the scene, as opposed to two, as regulations specify.
Just two individual firefighters, and sometimes even one, arrived at very serious incidents.
“In such a situation, a large population has no solution during an incident, to the point where lives and property are at risk,” Lindenstrauss wrote.
The report also criticized the fact that there are no set arrival times for incidents.
The number of firefighters and vehicles that head out to incidents is half of the average number of forces dispatched to fires in most Western countries, and the arrival time of fire crews in Israel is twice as long as in Western countries.
Additionally, the current structure of fire authorities means that jurisdictions are set by municipal borders, and not by the location of the closet firefighting force.
This means that fire crews located far from an incident could be called to respond while closer crews are not.
“The findings also raised suspicions of a clash of interests in the conduct of members of local regional councils who are also members of regional fire unions, including employing relatives, receiving donations from commercial bodies without any checks, and issue of vehicles,” the report added.