Lindenstrauss: Carmel fire report is in final stages

State Comptroller says his office received oral and written responses to draft report from Steinitz and Yishai.

Burnt trees after the Carmel Fire 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Burnt trees after the Carmel Fire 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said Tuesday that his office had received responses to the draft report on the Carmel Fire and added that the full report was now in its final stages of completion.
The December 2010 fire claimed the lives of 44 people, among them 37 Prisons Service cadets and their commanding officers, who died when the flames engulfed their bus. The fire also caused widespread damage to land and property, totaling millions of shekels, and destroyed an estimated 1.5 million trees.
On Tuesday, Lindenstrauss told Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin that his office had met with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Interior Minister Eli Yishai over the matter.
“They both received a copy of the draft report, and we received oral and written answers from them,” the comptroller said.
The announcement came almost a month after Lindenstrauss’s office sent copies of the report, entitled “The Carmel Fire December 2010 – Omissions, Failures and Conclusions,” to all audited parties, including Steinitz and Yishai, as well as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
In response to a question from Rivlin regarding whether Lindenstrauss had submitted the draft report to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein because of concerns of criminal liability, the comptroller said he filed copies of all his reports to Weinstein, and this case was no different.
The Carmel Fire report focuses on six key issues: the events of the first day of the fire, from morning until after the bus tragedy; security services’ preparedness for emergency situations; prevention of forest fires; the firefighting services; local government and Interior Ministry preparedness for fires, and their operation during the fire; and the failures of those ministers responsible, including in previous governments.
Lindenstrauss has repeatedly warned that the audit will expose serious failures that require immediate correction.
Last month, he noted that in his previous reports, including on the Second Lebanon War, his office had “warned repeatedly about the dangers to the state and its citizens of failures in firefighting.”
In a prior report, he dubbed the country’s Fire and Rescue Services the “weak link” in emergency readiness and said that ministerial responsibility lay with Yishai. In January, Hebrew-language press reports said Lindenstrauss might recommend dismissing Yishai and Steinitz from their respective posts.
Sources who read leaked copies of the report said the state comptroller was not expected to call for Yishai and Steinitz to resign, but might recommend they be transferred to different government positions so they may remain in the cabinet.
Also in January, Channel 2 reported that Lindenstrauss had told the families of those who died in the fire that criticism would be “directed at ministers” in the report.
The State Comptroller’s Office said last year that the report’s length directly correlated with the “scale of the disaster and its serious consequences” and that it revealed “a long series of blunders and failures, the tragic outcome of which is that the fatal fire in the Carmel – which took a toll of unprecedented magnitude – was not avoided.”