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Carmel Fire Update from JNF Foresters

December 16, 2010

 A Letter of Compassion from the US

On September 6, 2010, I lost my home to the most destructive wildland fire in Colorado history. What became known as the “Fourmile Fire” would eventually destroy 167 homes and displace thousands of residents from mountain communities surrounding the City of Boulder. Over 6,000 acres - the equivalent of 24,281 dunams - of pine forest were lost. Valuable wildland firefighting equipment was also consumed in the fire, all of which must be replaced. It will take decades for burnt pine forest to return. The threat of soil erosion on mountain slopes looms….

Since that day in September, there has been a tremendous outpouring of support from charities, corporations, artists and musicians, and individuals donating and raising money to help rebuild after the devastating Fourmile Fire. With the help of others, we in Boulder will rebuild. Assisted by JNF, Israel will do the same.

I hope you will consider helping JNF with its forest fire emergency campaign in any way you can.

Thank you,

Rod Moraga
Wildland Fire Behavior Analyst
Anchor Point Group
Boulder, Colorado USA

[object Object]December 7- Michael Weinberger KKL-JNF forest supervisor for the Western Galilee and Carmel Mountain reflects on the Carmel Fire:

 "When I first heard that a fire had broken out in the Carmel, I was in the middle of taking one of KKL-JNF's fire trucks for its annual inspection. I rushed to where the fire was raging, and I saw a sight unlike anything I had ever seen since 1979, when I first began working in KKL-JNF. We started trying to contain the fire, but then we had to do something we never did before – we had to abandon our positions and retreat, and then retreat once again. We're not used to retreating. It was literally hell on earth."

"There are moments of great frustration. You know that the fire is raging in six or seven different places, you love every inch of the forest, your forces are limited, which fire do you try to put out first? In general, we try to save an older forest before a younger one, because it is more developed, and we also take location and topographical and weather conditions into consideration. Unfortunately, we gained a lot of experience in dealing with forest fires during the Second Lebanese War, when we faced similar dilemmas. The difference between the fires then and the Carmel fire was that this fire was so much bigger, while during the war, we also were exposed to the danger of Katyusha rockets falling on us.

"KKL-JNF workers came from all over the country to help, but they're not familiar with the forest trails of the Carmel, so I had to assign a local person to each of the firefighting teams. We worked day and night, with the help of the KKL-JNF fire trucks. I cannot overestimate the critical importance of these fire trucks, which were donated by friends of KKL-JNF from all over the world. They made a huge difference. If not for them, a lot more of the forest would have been destroyed. They were built according to our specifications, they carry a lot of water, and they can go places other fire engines can't. Thanks to them and to the dedication of the KKL-JNF workers, we were able to save some of the forest, for which I'm very grateful.

"Was my life ever in danger? On the first day of the fire, I was driving in front of the bus that was burned up, in which 42 people lost their lives. I made it out of there with 30 seconds to spare.

"There were some moments of satisfaction. For example, we received orders to help protect homes in Kibbutz Beit Oren that hadn't already been burnt by stopping the fire in the forest on the western side of the kibbutz. Our job is to save the forests and open spaces, not houses, but if I see people's homes about to go up in flames, how could I not help save them?

"One of the most difficult moments for me was to have seemingly contained the fire and saved some area, then going somewhere else or resting for a couple hours, and coming back and discovering that in the meantime, the area I thought I had saved, burnt down. I felt frustration, disappointment, and a terrible, terrible sadness.

"A forest isn't just about trees. Forests provide habitats for plants and animals. Many animals were killed in the fire, but even if they managed to survive, their habitat is gone. I saw a deer that came back to its territory, a beautiful green forest that was now black and red from the fire retardant sprayed by the fire planes. The poor thing had such a look of shock and disbelief in its gentle eyes. And there was a goldfinch that stood staring at the burnt forest, incapable of moving even when people stood right next to it. These are memories I will never forget"



[object Object] December 6, 2010 – New York, NY -- An initial blaze that began near the Druze village of Usfiya and quickly became the worst fire in the history of the State of Israel was finally put under control though extinguishing operations will continue in the coming days to prevent fire from re-erupting.

The extent of the burnt area is comparable in size to 40% of Jerusalem or no less than 7,142 football fields.

Unfortunately, the road to recovery has only just begun. Staying true to its mandate of caring for the needs of the land and people of Israel, Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) Operation Carmel Renewal: From Black to Green will help rebuild and renew the Carmel Forest and purchase much-needed firefighting equipment for Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services.

 “This disaster represents a fire of unprecedented proportions for the people of Israel and presents an enormous challenge for Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services,” said Shimon Romach, Israel’s Fire Commissioner. “While we are strongly committed to confronting this with all our country’s available resources, the scope of this incident means our rescue services are in need of support from the international community at this time.”

JNF CEO Russell Robinson is in Israel now to assess the damage and will return in a few days with concrete plans and needs.

“Our response,” he said, “is not one just for today. JNF is here for tomorrow as well, and this campaign is taking into account the short-term and long-term needs of Israel’s most lush region and its most heroic firefighters. They are all a priority to us.”

As became obvious over the past few days, Israel’s firefighting needs include airplanes, ladder trucks, alternative rescue vehicles, compact fire trucks, vests, masks, hoses, extinguishing agent, thermal cameras, and more.

As for forest rehabilitation, Dr. Omri Bonneh, director of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, said:  "We learned a lot from the Second Lebanese War in terms of forest rehabilitation. In general, forests rejuvenate after fires. While we plant new trees in some areas for recreation or for other reasons, our basic policy is to rely on natural processes, which may sound easy, but in fact is extremely demanding, labor-intensive and costly. When trees regenerate naturally, they grow very densely. We have to be on top of every square meter of the forest, performing thinning operations and forest maintenance, in order to ensure a healthy forest that can also be used for recreation.

“It is already abundantly clear that it will take a long time to restore the lush green appearance of Mount Carmel,” he continued. “The ecological damage is enormous. Vast tracts of planted forest, natural woodland and carpets of flowers, together with thousands of birds, reptiles and mammals, have been destroyed. It will take decades for the landscape to be rehabilitated. Some of the trees burned were between fifty and a hundred years old.”






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