Fires broke out yesterday in Zichron Yaakov south of Haifa, Dolev in Samaria and Nataf in the Jerusalem corridor. Firefighters were immediately sent but their efforts were stymied by powerful winds.
In Zichron Yaakov, some 30 firefighting teams, 12 military firefighting units and four planes were working to tamp down the fire.
The fire destroyed at least 10 homes. Eight people, including three children, were treated for smoke inhalation at a local hospital. Over 3000 people were evacuated from their homes of the neighborhoods of Har Eden, Givat Zamarin and the surrounding area, and housed in community centers, senior citizen homes and guest-houses. With electricity shut off in the affected areas, homes will remain off-limits for several days.
R’ Aryeh Pollack, the chairmen of the United Rescue branch in the town and a member of the town council, said, “The fire destroyed tens of dunam of natural woods and orchards. Zichron Yaakov of tomorrow will not look like the Zichron Yaakov of this morning.”
The fire caused tremendous damage to the northern neighborhoods but did not reach the town’s religious neighborhood. The firefighters were able to put down the fire that was spreading within the town, but were unable to control the fire in the open areas outside.
Early on Wednesday morning, firefighters battled a massive blaze that neared homes in the West Bank settlement of Dolev, northwest of Jerusalem. The source of the fire was determined to be arson.
The flames, reaching 20 meters in height, were extinguished by 21 firefighting units and local volunteers who worked throughout the night.
In Nataf, near Jerusalem, firefighters began evacuating residents as another brush fire threatened to engulf houses on the outskirts of the town. Firefighting crews from nearby Beit Shemesh battled the blaze, and some residents were evacuated. Four firefighting aircraft were dispatched to the scene to help ongoing efforts to put out the fire.
Over the past two days, fires were also reported near Hadera, Lachish, the Haifa suburb of Nesher, the Etzion Bloc, and outside the northern town of Kfar Vradim.
Maj.-Gen. Amos Yaakov, commander of the Coastal District police, said this morning that police were suspicious that the series of fires could have been caused by nationalistically motivated arson attacks.
“When you’re battling six fronts at once, your suspicions run high,” he said.