Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wildfire in Dead Sea nature reserve

From the Jerusalem Post:

An IDF training exercise sparked a massive wildfire at the Ein Fasha Nature Reserve Tuesday morning, destroying nearly 2000 dunams [500 acres] of land in what the chief firefighter on the scene called "the largest wildfire of the summer."

"It's by far the largest," said Amnon Amir of the Judea and Samaria Fire Department, as flames in the area were still being sprayed by airplanes overhead. "It started around four in the morning, and has been extremely difficult to put out."

According to Amir, the exceedingly dry conditions in the area, which borders the northern Dead Sea, added to the difficulty, and low amounts of rainfall over the winter were to blame. But he also told The Jerusalem Post that the IDF had initially prevented his firefighters from entering the area, making it more difficult to combat the intense flames....

"It will take 10 years before the area completely renews itself," Nissim said. "But within six months or so, we'll already see new signs of life. This isn't a completely tragedy, because it's somewhat healthy for the vegetation to renew itself like that, but still, it's been difficult to watch it all burn."

The army refused to comment further on the incident, which Army Radio reported had begun from a flash or smoke grenade. According to the Judea and Samaria fire department, there were no injuries reported, and damage was limited to the plant life in the reserve.

There have been three large wildfires throughout the country since Saturday, two in the Jerusalem Hills before Tuesday's at Ein Fasha. Firefighters blame high temperatures and dry conditions as a factor in all of the fires, but at least one, on Saturday afternoon near Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hahamisha, was reportedly the result of arson.

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