The dry, windy weather in Israel Tuesday was responsible for a wave of wildfires, with a particularly large one breaking out in the area of Zichron Yaakov on Tuesday afternoon. Police evacuated residents of the Givat Eden neighborhood in the city, and gas lines in the area have been shut off, for fear that the rapidly spreading flames will reach homes in the area.
Five people were treated for smoke inhalation, including a two and a half year old infant. One school building was badly damaged as the fire spread, and as a precaution, police evacuated several other neighborhoods as well. All entries and exits to Zichron Yaakov were closed off by police.
High winds and relatively high temperatures were hampering efforts by firefighters to put out not only that fire, but one that has been burning since before midnight Monday night in the Latrun area. There, too, officials evacuated residents of the Neveh Shalom kibbutz, as flames threatened homes in the settlement. That blaze was brought under control Tuesday afternoon. Investigators have begun checking the area to determine the cause of the fire, and have discovered cigarettes and other tobacco paraphernalia that may be responsible. A total of 600 dunams of wooded area burned in that fire.
On Tuesday morning, another fire broke out, this one near Atlit, north of Zichron Yaakov. Officials there evacuated a school that was in the area of the fire.
Israel has been experiencing a bout of higher than normal temperatures, along with hot, easterly winds this week, and all those factors have hampered firefighting efforts. Fire officials warned Israelis to be extremely careful Tuesday, as the relatively hot and dry weather was set to continue throughout Tuesday. Relief is expected Tuesday night, as rain and thunderstorms are predicted to begin late Tuesday and extend through Wednesday, forecasters said.