Brush fires broke out throughout the country Wednesday afternoon amid a searing heatwave, damaging at least 15 homes in central Israel and necessitating the evacuation of dozens more.
Firefighting officials said the fires were under control by evening, their efforts helped by gentler winds and rising humidity.
Strong winds in the afternoon had helped the fires spread quickly, reaching a breakneck speed of four meters per second in some places, or roughly nine miles per hour. The winds also grounded firefighting planes and helicopters for part of the day.
The Magen David Adom rescue service said it treated seven people for smoke inhalation in fire-afflicted areas.
— החדשות (@NewsChannelIL) July 17, 2019
One fire, near the city of Or Yehuda, east of Tel Aviv, had reached the neighborhood of Ramat Pinkas, where the first row of homes was evacuated as a precaution and access to the area was barred, before the flames engulfed at least five buildings, according to Hebrew-language media. One resident, a 64-year-old man, required medical care after inhaling smoke.
In the West Bank settlement of Shavei Shomron, all residents were told to leave their homes due to a fire that later caused damage to some buildings as well as infrastructure and a commercial structure. Firefighters later said they had gained control of that fire.
All the homes were also evacuated in Aderet and Neve Michael, small communities near Beit Shemesh, due to a large blaze nearby.
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) July 17, 2019
Another big fire broke out near the Arab town of Barta’a in the Wadi Ara area, where many firefighters and firefighting planes were called in to help stem its spread. The nearby towns of Ar’ara and Katzir were evacuated, and four homes in Ar’ara burned down. Two women, aged 70 and 41, were lightly hurt after inhaling smoke.
שריפת יער גדולה???? בברטעה,כוחות כיבוי רבים פועלים במקום הוזנקו מטוסים למקום. pic.twitter.com/FnOu9jRi6K
— ????فرات نصار||פ. נסאר||F. NASSAR (@nassar_furat) July 17, 2019
Two men, aged 60 and 35, were lightly hurt after inhaling smoke from a fire near the Arab town of I’billin in the Lower Galilee. They were treated by Magen David Adom paramedics.
A street in Jerusalem’s Ir Ganim neighborhood was blocked to allow firefighters to battle a blaze in a nearby forest.
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) July 17, 2019
In the north, firefighters gained control over a fire that was blazing on a hill near Haifa’s Neve Sha’anan neighborhood.
Part of Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology was also evacuated as flames approached the hillside campus.
שריפת חורש פרצה באזור נשר והצ'ק פוסט לכיוון מורדות נווה שאנן סמוך למחצבה
(מיכל וסרמן, צילום: איחוד הצלה) pic.twitter.com/J3ftcULLYv
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 17, 2019
Other blazes were reported near Modiin, Petah Tikva, Kfar Saba and Ashdod.
Due to the rash of fires throughout the country, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services went on emergency footing in the afternoon, canceling all vacations and calling up all firefighters.
The office of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said he was “closely following and receiving updates on the firefighters’ activity across the country.”
Some roads were blocked due to the fires. They included Route 40 between Nehalim and Be’erot Yitzhak, Route 42 between Ashdod Interchange and Gderot, and Route 57 between Bayt Lid in the West Bank and Kfar Yona.
The heat wave that struck Israel Wednesday sent temperatures soaring to near-record breaking heights.
The highest temperature was recorded on the southern shores of the Dead Sea, near the site of Biblical Sodom, where temperatures hit 49.9 degrees Celsius, or 122° Fahrenheit. That’s not far from the highest-ever temperature recorded in the country, 54°C (129°F) in June 1942 at Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi in the northern Jordan Valley.
In Tel Aviv, the heat reached 40°C (104°F) at 11 a.m., but humidity was mercifully low at 20 percent. While temperatures dropped to a more humane 33°C (91°F) in the afternoon, humidity soared to 75%, making it feel hotter than in the morning.
Temperatures in Jerusalem hit 38° Celsius (100° Fahrenheit), compared to about 28°C (82°F) on Monday. Haifa saw temperatures of 35°C (95°F), and Beersheba 42°C (108°F).