Firefighters gain control of J'lem forest fire

Highway 1 reopens to traffic in both directions; 23 fire crews, six planes battled blazes in Jerusalem-area forests; 3 injured.

Rescue worker looks at Jerusalem fire 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Rescue worker looks at Jerusalem fire 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Firefighters Tuesday afternoon took control of a number of blazes that were raging in the forest around Jerusalem, with the largest fire near the suburb of Motza, Jerusalem police said.
The Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway was closed to traffic for a number of hours as fire and rescue services scrambled to control the blaze.
Police evacuated the town of Ma'aleh Hachamisha, including the hotel, and Magen David Adom raised its alert level to the highest possible level. A total of 23 fire crews were battling the blaze from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, with reinforcements coming from central Israel. Some homes in Motza were evacuated and the fire was moving in the direction of Mevasseret Zion.
Israel's entire fleet of firefighting planes were being used to battle the blaze, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a briefing on the matter.
Smoldering trees
Battling the flames
A firefighter in Jerusalem
Firefighting planes
Traffic from the fire
Fire truck
Three people were lightly injured from smoke inhalation, Magen David Adom said.
Earlier in the day, firefighters battled a large forest fire in the abandoned village of Lifta at the entrance to Jerusalem.
Four firefighting crews were successfully bringing the blaze in Lifta under control within an hour, which was producing heavy smoke visible from the Begin Highway.
Embers burn inside a tree near Jerusalem (Photo: Seth Frantzman)Embers burn inside a tree near Jerusalem (Photo: Seth Frantzman)
There were a number of separate origins of the fire, located next to an electricity distribution center.
Jerusalem Fire and Rescue spokesman Asaf Abras said firefighters could hear "popping" noises coming from the electric company building area.
Two caravans from the electric company were damaged in the fire.
Smoke from forest fire outside Jerusalem (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem)Smoke from forest fire outside Jerusalem (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem District fire chief Eli Peretz told Israel Radio that it was too soon to tell if arson was the cause of the fires.
Seven people have been arrested in the past month for allegedly lighting fires in open areas. Abras said in the past two weeks firefighters have dealt with more than 200 cases of suspected arson in open areas and forests around Jerusalem. staff contributed to this report.