Firefighters on Wednesday night finally brought under control wildfires in the northern communities of Zichron Yaakov and Gilon, allowing some evacuated residents to return to their homes. Police also planned to bolster security forces’s presence in the area, as suspicions grew that arson was the cause of some of the fires.
Firefighters in Zichron Yaakov — who battled the blaze for 29 hours — were told to stand down, apart from eight teams who remained in the area in the event of further outbreaks. People whose homes were damaged were not permitted to return.
In the Galilee town of Gilon, near Karmiel, some residents were also allowed to return to their homes, several hours after some 80 residences were evacuated over the approaching forest fire. No injuries were reported but three homes were damaged by the fire, Galilee police said. Electricity, which had been cut to the village, was restored Wednesday night.
Meanwhile teams continued fighting fires in other parts of the country. Most recently on Wednesday night a fire broke out between the settlements of Talmon and Dolev, about 20 kilometers east of Modi’in. With the blaze approaching Talmon firefighters instructed residents nearest the blaze to evacuate their homes.
A spokesperson for Magen David Adom said that paramedics treated a total of 21 people across the country for smoke inhalation Wednesday. In all there were some 220 fires throughout the country in the past two days.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited an area near Zichron Yaakov hit by fire on Wednesday, to offer his support to the firefighting teams there. He said that some of the fires were started deliberately.
“There is some evidence of arson,” Netanyahu said at a Fire and Rescue Service command center, where he was briefed on ongoing efforts to quell the blazes by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.
“Our first goal is saving lives and I ask residents to do exactly what the authorities ask of them. Our second goal is putting out the fires,” Netanyahu told reporters. He gave no further details on the alleged arson.
As a result of the suspicions, Erdan and Alsheich announced that they will significantly increase police patrols in certain areas, particularly open sites close to residential property. The goal is both to prevent any further arson and spot any fires early on, so they can be dealt with quickly.
The fears of new wildfires led Netanyahu on Wednesday to seek help from foreign countries, including Greece, Croatia and Cyprus, who will send firefighting aircraft.