Giant Fire Near Beit Shemesh Devastates Woodlands

YERUSHALAYIM (Hamodia Staff) -
Firefighting planes dousing a forest fire near Yerushalayim on Friday. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
Firefighting planes dousing a forest fire near Yerushalayim on Friday. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
A firefighting plane drops fire retardant over a forest fire near Yerushalayim on Friday.  (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
A firefighting plane drops fire retardant over a forest fire near Yerushalayim on Friday. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

Hundreds of firefighters, assisted by firefighting planes, fought a giant blaze near Beit Shemesh all Friday, which left close to 500 acres of forest area devastated before it could be brought under control.

Officials said it could take 20 years before the region’s natural vegetation is restored after the terrible scorching.

“There was a tremendous effort,” Kobi Tobol, the commander of the Beit Shemesh-Yerushalayim District Fire Department, told Ynet.

“Seventy fire trucks with the help of other authorities, among them the police, which worked to evacuate communities and civilians. Everyone worked throughout the entire day and managed to stop the fire from reaching residential areas. Despite that, in such a big fire, the damage to nature and to the animals is massive, and will require many years of rehabilitation.”

The damage occurred in Hanasi Forest and Eshtaol Forest. Tree stands planted back in the 50s and 60s were burned down, along with rest stops and trails, according to the head of the coastal area and the Shfela Plains in KKL-JNF, Gilad Mastai.

The cause of the fire was thought to be careless burning of pruning in a nearby moshav. “As a result of the topography and the extreme weather conditions, the fire climbed up the hills and treetops and destroyed hundreds of dunams,” Mastai said.

On Sunday, eight crews and six planes were deployed to put out a fire near Gvaot, in the Etzion Bloc, south of the capital, and succeeded in stopping its spread.

Fires also burned near Bet Shemesh, Elon Moreh and Maaleh Adumim on Sunday.