The temperatures are high and humidity is low – and in Israel in the summer, that has become a recipe for forest and brush fires. With Wednesday’s temperatures hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit in most parts of the country, fires were burning in a number of locations – some of them large, causing the evacuation of people from their air-conditioned residences on the hottest day of the year so far. Roads in several parts of the country were closed because of the proximity of fires, and all firefighters, including those on break and vacation, have been ordered to report to work.
A large fire was burning outside the central plain town of Or Yehuda, with the flames coming very close to homes in the Ramat Pinkas neighborhood, residents of which have been evacuated. Several homes there have caught fire, officials said. Another fire outside the Arab town of Ar’ara has caused evacuations there as well, and residents of the town of Aderet, near Beit Shemesh, were also asked to leave their homes as a fire burned there as well. Several fires were burning in the the Haifa area. Hundreds of firefighters were actively battling the blazes, and planes were being used to douse fires from the air.
One apartment in the Haifa area was reportedly burned in a separate fire.
Another fire was burning next to the town of Shavei Shomron, and residents there have also been evacuated from their homes. However, officials said they would not send planes to put the fire out from the air, saying they had “other priorities,” said Yossi Dagan, Shomron Council head. “This is a shocking failure,” he said. “A true tragedy is in the making here. I call on the Public Security Minister to intervene and send the appropriate assistance.”
In some of the fires, acrid smoke was drifting towards city centers, making breathing difficult for the elderly or ill, and for children. The Health Ministry advised all those with breathing or heart issues to remain indoors. Firefighting officials said that investigations would be conducted into each of the blazes, in order to determine their exact cause, and whether arson was involved.
Other fires were reported outside of Modi’in; adjacent to Route 40, near the town of Nechalim, just south of Petach Tikva; near Kfar Aviv in the Ashdod area; near Kfar Yona, east of Netanya, and near Route 444 near Sdeh Chemed and Jaljulya.