Usfiya fire suspects' father: They were framed

Father blames "negligence of the neighbors who framed the boys;" says boys "didn't even know about" Carmel fire; suspects' remand extended.

Trees fire Usfiya 311 (photo credit: Channel 10 News)
Trees fire Usfiya 311
(photo credit: Channel 10 News)
Two Usfiya brothers on Sunday, suspected of starting the deadly fire in the Carmel region had their remand extended until Wednesday by the Haifa Magistrate Court. Their father said "we won't allow two good kids to be framed with this case," prior to the hearing.
He said the boys "had nothing to do with the fire, they didn't even know about it. One of them was sleeping and the other was in school." Their father added that the boys were "taken from their home, as if they were terrorists and not treated like two young boys prior to induction in the IDF."
Map of fires raging in Carmel
2 Usfiya brothers held for suspected criminal negligence
Video: Police say Carmel fire started by negligence, not arson
He blamed the "negligence of the neighbors who framed the boys," saying, "my boys do not smoke Nargila, and you can check that in a lab. I stand besides them and will continue to stand beside them. I will see to it that they are released immediately."
The father said that he too "served in the army, and my family and I tried to help the firefighters to put out the fire in the past few days."
The brothers, aged 14 and 16, were arrested on Saturday by officers belonging to a special investigation team assembled by the central unit of the Hof police sub-district, on suspicion of negligence which led to the devastating fire in the Carmel which has so far claimed the lives of 41 people.
“According to our initial findings, based on an analysis of findings on the ground, the fire was caused by negligence,” Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post.  Reports that the teens were suspected of hurling burning waste products during a picnic could not be confirmed.
The investigation of the incident is in its early phases, and police have cautioned against drawing premature conclusions.
Meanwhile, police and firefighters had to contend with sporadic fires that erupted far from the main Carmel fire zone, leading investigators to conclude that arsonists were attempting to “hitch a ride” on the Carmel disaster.
On Friday, two men in their 30s from Daliat al- Carmel were arrested on suspicion of hurling flammable materials into the Carmel forest, after reportedly being spotted by a pilot from above. But the men were released without charge on Saturday. The arrests were condemned by Druse leaders as being symptomatic of a “blame game” they said was being directed against them.
On Friday, a fire broke out in Kiryat Bialik’s Tzur Shalom industrial zone, forcing the evacuation of a nearby factory. The flames were brought under control by firefighters within several hours. Police reported finding a bicycle and a bag containing a wig near the area, increasing suspicions that arson was involved.
A blaze that broke out in Tivon was also likely the result of arson, police said.
“There have been a number of arson attacks in the northern district,” Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said during an emergency press conference on Friday evening at Haifa University.
Additional suspicious fires erupting over the weekend were seen in the following areas: near the Galilee village of Adi, at Bet Shlomo Junction by Route 70 in the vicinity of Nazareth, and near Kfar Mashad.
A small fire erupted in Haifa’s Nave Yosef neighborhood on Friday afternoon. All the fires were out by midnight.
“We’ve been seeing these kinds of arson attacks for many years,” Fire Service official Boaz Arkia said.
A brush fire broke out in the Jerusalem Forest on Saturday around 1 p.m., Jerusalem District police reported. Firefighters and police responded to the blaze and had it under control within an hour, and the fire was completely put out by 4 p.m.
Police are treating the brushfire as arson after hikers nearby reported two suspects fleeing from the area where the fire started.
A police investigation is ongoing. The fire burned a total of 2.5 dunams of forest and open land, and there was never any danger of damage to homes or people in nearby Tsur Hadassah.