The fire that raged in Zikhron Ya’akov on Tuesday reignited early Wednesday morning due to the strong winds, while blazes ignited in the Jerusalem area and in Nahariya and air pollution levels rose in affected areas.
Some 50 firefighting teams—both civilian and military—were in Zikhron Ya’akov battling the blaze with the aid of four firefighting planes, as additional teams coming in from nearby districts. The strong winds and difficult topographical conditions made efforts harder.
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The firefighters tried to put out the fire during the night, but around 3am the winds picked up, fanning the flames where the blaze had already died. The fire also spread to new areas.
Police blocked entry to three neighborhoods that were evacuated Tuesday to all but firefighting forces, saying residents could not return until Friday.
“The forecast is that residents’ return would not be possible in the next few days either due to the strong winds and mortal danger, ” authorities said following a situation assessment that included the Fire Department, the Home Front Command and the municipality.
Some residents returned to their homes on Tuesday despite not getting the all-clear and had to be evacuated once more.
The Environmental Protective Ministry noted that high levels of air pollution were registered in the city and recommended residents who have not been evacuated to remain in their homes and seal any openings.
A fire also broke out near the settlement of Nataf in the Jerusalem Mountains on Wednesday morning. Four firefighting teams were sent to the scene along with four firefighting planes as the strong winds pushed the blaze towards the settlement. Residents whose houses were close to the fire were evacuated from their homes, and some structures suffered damage from the flames.
Also on Wednesday morning, three firefighting teams were battling a brush fire on the eastern side of Nahariya. Residents were asked to remain in their homes and seal any openings due to the great amounts of smoke.
In addition, a forest fire broke out in Shefar’am on Wednesday morning, with five firefighting crews battling the flames.
Meanwhile, a brush fire that raged overnight near Kisra-Sumei in the western Galilee and was put out restarted on Wednesday morning. Four firefighting teams were on site blatting it.
During the night, five firefighting teams battled a brush fire in the wadi between the villages of Yarka and Jat northeast of Acre in northern Israel. The fire burned through 150 dunam and ended just before dawn.
Fighting the flames through the night
On Tuesday night, families were evacuated from the settlement of Dolev in the Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank due to a fire that was nearing their homes.
The fire started dying down around 10:30pm and firefighters were able to start gaining control of the blaze, but an hour and a half later the winds changed directions and picked up to 44 km/h, fanning the flames and reigniting the fire.
During the night, over 60 firefighting teams were battling flames that reached 20 meters in height in three different areas of the settlement. Gas containers caught fire and exploded.
On Wednesday morning, five firefighting teams were still at the scene battling the flames with the aid of a water-tanked and four firefighting planes.
Two people were taken to the hospital in light condition after suffering from smoke inhalation, while the blaze caused damage to several structures and caravans.
Authorities measured high levels of air pollution in the area caused by the fires, and recommended that those suffering from respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome, as well as the elderly, are evacuated from the area.
Residents are still not allowed to return to their homes.
Meanwhile, firefighting teams from Kiryat Gat and Ashkelon worked to put out a big forest fire between Kiryat Gat and Lachish near route 35. They were able to gain partial control of the fire.
Dr. Levana Kordova-Biezuner, the scientific director of the national air-monitoring system at the Environmental Protection Ministry, explained that “the haze concentrations are on the rise” because of the fires.
On Tuesday “we measured (high) concentrations inside the houses and made a decision to evacuate 40 families in Revadim, whose homes were near the fire.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan stipulated the multiple fires could be the result of arson. “It’s beginning to appear—in light of the multiple fire locations—that arson could be the cause of some of the fires. The police and the Fire Department will investigate, ” he wrote on Twitter. “I ask the public to remain vigilant and report any case of suspected arson and any blaze to the police and the Fire Department, mostly in the coming couple of days due to the dry weather.”
On Tuesday evening, firefighters were battling a blaze in Kibbutz Revadim in southern Israel, with some 40 families evacuated from their homes after the fire increased the levels of air pollution in the area. Firefighters have since gained control of the fire and are working to completely put it out.
In Zikhron Ya’akov, she explained “the fire particles are very dangerous because they contain all kinds of poisonous particles and could cause respiratory syndrome, burning eyes, shortness of breath, and severe asthma attacks to affected people.”
Throughout the day Tuesday, firefighters battled blazes in Latrun, Atlit and Nesher. Nineteen people, including a 10-day-old baby, suffered from smoke inhalation.
By Ahiya Raved, Elisha Ben Kimon, Omri Efraim, Roi Yanovsky and Ilana Curiel contributed to this report, Ynet News