US plane helps douse deadly fire in Israel
JERUSALEM — Israeli officials said an inferno that has raged for four days in a northern Israeli forest was under control, helped in part by the world’s largest flying fire extinguisher — a
Two teenage brothers were arrested Saturday in connection with the country’s worst forest fire, which has killed 41 people, most of them prison guards whose bus was trapped by the flames while they were en route to evacuate a prison. The blaze has been tearing through the Carmel Forest near Israel’s third-largest city, Haifa, since Thursday.
“Our news for this evening is control,’’ fire official Boaz Rakia told reporters last night. “The fire department has declared that the fire is under control.’’ He added that the blaze is still burning in some places.
He said that most of the thousands of Israelis evacuated from their homes would be allowed to return.
The sole exception, he said, was Bet Oren, a collective farming village in the heart of the fire zone, where extensive damage would prevent residents from immediately returning.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there have been 20 arson attempts in other forests over the past 48 hours.
The huge fire in the Carmel Forest caught Israel — which prides itself on its technological prowess, ability to improvise, and rescue expertise — woefully unprepared. That has provoked a public backlash against officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on down.
Countries in the immediate region and as far afield as Russia and the US dispatched planes, firefighters, and materials to help battle the blaze.
Israel leased the Boeing 747 Supertanker from a private US company.
Palestinian firefighters ordinarily barred from entering Israel yesterday joined the international effort. Team leader Ibrahim Ayish said the 21 Palestinian firefighters hoped that by helping to put out the blaze, they could ignite some good will between two sides more often embroiled in conflict.
In Israel, only 7 percent of the land is wooded. The Carmel Forest makes up 5 percent of that forested land and nearly half of it — roughly 20 square miles of woodland — has burned.