Israelis who were planning a hike in the woods featuring an alfresco barbecue should pack some sandwiches instead. As of next Sunday it will be illegal to light fires in open fields, forests and public spaces during the daytime hours, from 7:00 a.m. through 8:00 p.m. The ban on outdoor fires will continue through September 26th, when the danger of forest fires drops significantly as cooler weather begins to prevail.
Fires are also banned in all nature reserves. However, they will be allowed in areas where there is no vegetation. All outdoor fires must be at least 500 meters from vegetation, meaning that fires will be allowed in large areas of the Negev. Also banned are welding and other fire-related activities in areas not designated for such work. Areas where that work is done must be at least 20 meters from any vegetation.
Israel’s top firefighter, Commander Dedi Simchi, appealed to Israelis to follow the rules. This is the first time such a ban has been implemented, and enforcement is likely to be difficult, which means that cooperation from the public is needed, he said. “Tens of thousands of fires break out in Israel each summer, mostly in open areas, and they cause a great deal of damage, besides endangering human life,” said Simchi in a statement. “The Israeli climate requires that we increase the consciousness of the public to the dangers of fire, and for responsible behavior in nature.”