Efforts to contain wildfires raging in Israel have seen foreign services lend aircraft and crew to help fight the flames. Israeli forces, led by the Israeli Police’s Aerial Unit and assisted by the Israeli Air Force (IAF), began fighting fires in the country on 22 November, with blazes sweeping across large areas due to the hot, dry conditions within the country. On 24 November, the fire swept into Haifa, meaning 80,000 citizens had to be evacuated.
“There is no single centre, but many different fires scattered all across the country,” said Chief Superintendent Gilly, commander of the aircraft division in the police’s aerial unit. “The situation is very dynamic and changing by the minute, this morning [24 November] Jerusalem was our main focus and now the main theatre is Haifa.”
Forces from Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, Italy and Russia have all arrived in the country in an attempt to try to stop the fires, which are now so large they can be seen from space.
“The fact they are here and arrived so quickly reflects the deep and true connection between the countries,” said Gilad Erdan, minister of public security.
Israeli authorities said that, due to the scale of the fires, foreign forces were operating in different areas to the Israeli efforts, though added that there was ‘a close co-operation between the sides’.
The Italian national fire service, Vigili del Fuoco, sent over two Canadair CL-415 planes that were deployed at the Hatzor Air Force Base. Eight pilots, four technicians and a liaison officer were also deployed. The Russian Emergency Ministry (EMERCOM) sent a task force that consisted of two Be-200ChS amphibious jets to fight the flames.
It has been reported by the BBC that Israeli authorities have contacted US company Global Supertanker about the use of their Boeing 747 firefighting plane.
The fires occurred a week before the six-year anniversary of the Mount Carmel Forest Fire, which was the deadliest wildfire in Israeli history. Forty-four people were killed in fires in 2010, and the devastation of these events led Israeli forces to better prepare for wildfire situations, with the Aerial Firefighting Unit being established as a direct result.