Yerushalayim-Area Fires Still Blazing Monday as 17,000 Dunams of Land Scorched

YERUSHALAYIM -
Burned down trees following a major fire which broke out in a forest near Beit Meir, outside of Yerushalayim on Sunday, as seen Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Massive wildfires near Yerushalayim were still blazing on Monday morning as more than 17,000 dunams of land were scorched by the conflagration that erupted less than 24 hours earlier.

The fires, some of the biggest to break out in the past few years, have forced some 10,000 residents to evacuate their homes.

The residents of Shoresh, Sho’evah, Beit Meir and Ksalon near Yerushalayim were allowed to return home after being evacuated on Sunday.

Moshav Ramat Raziel and the Eitanim psychiatric hospital were still off-limits, with efforts ongoing to fend away the rapidly advancing flames from Even Sapir and Aminadav.

The Fire and Rescue Service said that 17,000 dunams (4,200 acres) had been damaged in the fire.

“The fire is still active on five fronts, but that does not put any inhabitants in danger for the moment,” Yerushalayim fire chief Shlomi Ben Yair told Army Radio on Monday morning.

“We are focusing on efforts to help emergency services and families evacuated from their homes,” he added.

Fire and Rescue Commissioner Dedi Simchi said 12 firefighting planes were deployed along with crews from some 60 fire engines.

“I am glad to say that we managed to prevent entire communities from being burned,” Simchi said in a briefing to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev, some five hours after the fire erupted.

He said they no longer faced any “critical danger,” although “there are some pockets where homes have caught fire, which we are extinguishing.”

Bennett said during a statement to the media following the briefing that “it’s not over until it’s over,” saying efforts were moving “in a positive direction.”

In the meantime, a 25-year-old patient was still missing since he lost contact with others during the evacuation of the psychiatric hospital on Sunday as flames approached the town of Givat Ye’arim. Officials estimated that there was no immediate danger to his life.

A second patient who had gone missing was located late Sunday night.