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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Israel Wildfires: 12,355 acres, 42 dead, Fire Contained, Rain Forecast #CarmelFire

Update: LODD - Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer died of injuries, Haifa police confirm.
Hospital officials reported a severe deterioration overnight in the condition of Haifa Police Commander Ahuva Tomer.
Tomer was hospitalized in very serious condition at Haifa's Rambam Hospital on Thursday after being
fatally injured in the wildfires when she raced to scene of Prison Service bus caught in flames.
Israel – Wildfires
As of 2100 hours local time on December 5, firefighters had contained the vast majority of wildfires. Local weather forecasts predict rain in northern Israel during the next 24 to 48 hours, which authorities believe may help extinguish any remaining blazes.
Map of Wildfires near Haifa Israel
Credit: California Fire News 12-5-10

Line of Duty Deaths:  Most of the 41 victims were cadets in Israel's prison service who arrived Thursday to help evacuate 500 inmates from the Damon prison near Haifa.
Among the dead, 40 were apparently burned alive when their bus, traveling along a narrow mountain road, was engulfed by the fast-moving blaze, the Jerusalem Post reported.
In an interview with the newspaper, a firefighter spokesman said the bus was gone in less than three minutes.
"The bus had no chance. They tried to escape but were burned alive," the spokesman said. "It was a horrific scene."
The Israeli military said the victims would be be buried with full honors
  • As of 1800 hours local time on December 5, a total of 35 aircraft had performed 409 flights in support of fire
    suppression efforts in Israel. Approximately 17,000 people evacuated from fire-affected areas resided with family and friends the night of December 4, while others stayed in community shelters in nearby towns. 
  • On December 5, the Government of Israel (GoI) announced full containment of wildfires and allowed nearly all evacuated populations to return to their homes, with the exception of populations from Beit Oren. 
  • According to Israeli Police, the Carmel fires appear to have been caused by negligence. Between the evenings of December 3 and 5, some 20 arson attempts occurred in other forests; these were quickly contained by firefighters. 
  • All ten members of USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART), including National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) staff, have arrived in Israel and travelled to the GoI firefighting Operation Command Center, located on the campus of Haifa University. 
  • USAID/DART staff reported observing a robust air-and ground-based firefighting operation, including a privately-contracted Evergreen 747 out of Arizona, capable of carrying 80,000 liters of water and performing nocturnal flights.
  • To date, a total of three U.S. C-130 aircraft from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) have arrived in Israel from U.S. European Command (EUCOM) at Ramstein Air Base in Germany carrying a total of 20 short tons of fire retardant and 3,800 gallons of fire retardant concentrate.
  • The fire has also threatened a sensitive ecological area near the Hai Bar nature reserve. Known as Mount Carmel's "Little Switzerland," the reserve is home to a wildlife preservation project that seeks to bring back native species mentioned in the Old Testament.
Population Evacuated: 17,000
Confirmed Fatalities: 41
Total Acreage Affected: 12,355
Homes Damaged: Fires damaged approximately 250 houses.
USAID/OFDA Assistance
For Wildfires: $501,820
DoD Assistance for Wildfires: Forthcoming
Total USGHumanitarian Assistance for Wildfires: $501,820
 On December 2, a wildfire began in Israel’s Carmel Forest near Usfiya village. Rapidly spreading over the next four days due to adverse 2010 weather conditions, including unseasonably high temperatures and drought, the wildfire affected nearly 12,355 acres and burned more than 4 million trees.
On December 3, U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham declared a disaster due to the effects of the wildfire. On December 4, USAID deployed a DART to respond to the wildfires. A Washington, D.C.-based Response Management Team (RMT), activated on December 3, continues to provide support to the USAID/DART. USAID staff based in Budapest, Hungary, and Washington, D.C. continue to monitor the situation in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, USAID/West Bank/Gaza, DoD, and other interagency partners.
Areas Affected:
According to the GoI, areas most affected by the fires were Ein Hod, Nir Ezion, Beit Oren, and Yemin Orde.
Preliminary GoI damage assessments indicate that fires damaged approximately 250 houses, the majority of which were located in Ein Hod and Beit Oren. In addition, the GoI estimates that wildfires have caused property, roadway, and forest damages of up to 270 million New Israel Shekels (ILS), the equivalent of $74.3 million.
GoI Response
On December 5, the GoI Cabinet Secretary announced the creation of an inter-ministerial team, composed of four sub-teams, to work on post-wildfire rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. The teams will focus on rebuilding damaged infrastructure, providing humanitarian assistance to affected populations, rehabilitating the Carmel Forest, mapping out damages, and investigating insurance coverage issues.
The GoI has allocated $16.8 million in an initial response to provide support for affected populations. The GoI
Housing Authority also plans to station short-term mobile housing units in affected communities. The GoI will
continue to assess the current humanitarian situation and will provide additional financial support as necessary.
USG Response

On December 5, the USAID/DART Team Leader and Military Liaison Officer and U.S. Embassy personnel met with representatives from Israeli National Police and IDF, including the Israeli Air Force, at the firefighting Operation Command Center near Haifa, to discuss the firefighting response and additional needs.
USG personnel also met with the Jewish National Fund, which manages the forests in Israel, to discuss post-fire recovery plans.
On December 5, USAID/OFDA-procured firefighting supplies, including 27 metric tons (MT) of Fire-Trol retardant and 22 MT of Fire-Trol firefighting foam, departed from Rome, Italy to Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. The aircraft was also transporting 20 MT of donated firefighting foam. The chartered aircraft arrived on December 5 at 2140 hours local time. Commodities were consigned to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, which is transporting the commodities to affected areas.
On December 6, USAID, in conjunction with National Security Staff and the White House Office of Public
Engagement, is organizing an interagency conference call with Jewish community leaders, led by the USAID/DCHA Deputy Assistant Administrator. In addition, USAID will coordinate an interagency call with interested members of Congress through USAID's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs.
International Response
The international response to date has included 24 foreign firefighting aircraft from Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Britain, Turkey, Russia, France, Spain, Azerbaijan, and a private company in the U.S. In addition, at least 150 foreign firefighters worked alongside Israeli forces to extinguish the flames.

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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