Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 3, 2010

Mt. Carmel conflagration and consequences

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on December 3, 2010

    Photo by AFP

From today’s Jerusalem Post:

At midday on Friday, 25 hours after the start of the inferno that has taken more than 40 lives, forced 13,000 people from their homes and consumed vast swathes of the northern Israeli countryside, Israel’s utterly under-equipped Fire Service offered the first real glimmer of hope.

“We do not have the fire under control, but we do have the situation under control,” said Hezi Levy, the Fire Service spokesman. “We have commanders deployed on the ground in all the key areas. We are properly coordinating our work, between the ground operations and the air forces. We have our priorities straight, focusing on preventing the blaze from destroying residential areas.”

Levy stressed that new blazes were erupting all the time, the battle complicated by the day’s fierce winds. “The fire is still spreading. I’m not sure we’ll put it all out today,” he said. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen in 21 years, and colleagues with a lot more years of experience than me say they’ve never, ever had to fight anything like it.

“But,” he stressed, “we will beat it. We’ll fight it until we beat it.”

According to the Financial Times:

Following Israel’s request for international assistance on Thursday, aid such as firefighting aircraft, helicopters and trucks was expected from Britain, Cyprus, the US, Russia, Egypt and Spain throughout the day.Turkey, putting aside recent tensions over Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, also sent two firefighting aircraft.

According to Haaretz:

The enormous blaze that broke out on the Carmel will be remembered as the Yom Kippur War of the Fire and Rescue Service, who were not prepared to counter a disaster of such magnitude. Yesterday it turned out that Israel is not prepared for war or a mass terrorist strike that would cause many casualties in the home front. The warning of the outgoing Military Intelligence Chief, Amos Yadlin, that the next war will be a lot more difficult than past experiences, and that Tel Aviv will be a front line, was not translated into the necessary preparation by the authorities assigned the protection of the civilians.

Early Friday morning (US time) there is breaking news in Israel that the police and fire services suspect the fires were purposefully set. 

The risks we face — all of us — are natural, accidential, and intentional in origin.  Crafting a truly all-hazards strategy of risk readiness is as important as it is elusive.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

December 3, 2010 @ 8:27 am

So was this the famous area of “Cedars of Lebanon” to which the disapora contributed reforestation money?

Any indication of source of fires? May well have taught a new methodology to those who oppose Israeli!

I guess Israel completely overlooked the destructive force of modern incendiaries?

BNICE–Biological, Nuclear, Incendiaries, Chemical, Explosives?

And direct support of the FIRE SERVICE has declined by at least 10% since 1/1/2008 with more reductions every day.

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

December 3, 2010 @ 11:22 am

As of 11:30 am today, the Jerusalem Post had some details that were sobering — slow response to initial alert, depleted equipment and supplies. Strange that a country seemingly well-prepared for war was not ready to deal with a conflagration.

Ironically, I just attended a 2-day international symposium on resilience and the Israeli speakers had some inspiring advice and experience.

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

December 3, 2010 @ 11:22 am

Direct URL:

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 3, 2010 @ 6:40 pm

Claire, Thank you for the updates. I barely had time to post before heading into an all-day session.

I am also seeing lots of questions raised regarding systemic readiness and effective response. But from prior discussions with several US specialists in wildfire management, I have the impression that depending on terrain, combustibles, and distribution of the fire-starts it is very difficult to suppress or contain simulataneous multiple break-outs.

Whether intentional, accidental, or natural in origin the kind of fire that emerged near Haifa could just as easily occur in several US locations.

Comment by Ci-Sun

December 12, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

The fire is still spreading. I’m not sure we’ll put it all out today

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