Fire services battled multiple blazes across the country on Saturday as the country sweltered under a heatwave that brought strong winds to fan the flames.
By the evening, fire and rescue services said forces had responded to some 176 fires across the country since the morning.
Homes were evacuated in two communities, and hikers were told to leave a number of parks and forests.
There were no reports of injuries.
A large fire broke out at the Karmia nature reserve, north of the Gaza Strip, and police said they were working to locate hikers in the area for evacuation.
According to reports, a number of people were forced to abandon their vehicles as the flames approached and at least two cars caught fire.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 27, 2023
The Fire and Rescue Services said a group of 100 people had arrived at the Galilee’s Har Turan region to play airsoft gun games. One group of them set a small brushfire that quickly spread to adjacent fields.
Another group of the airsoft players barbecued in an unregulated area, leading to an additional fire.
A third blaze broke out near the northern coastal city of Acre, causing traffic disruption as heavy smoke drifted toward an interchange.
In addition, a number of homes were evacuated in the Tsur Moshe community near Netanya and in Mazra’a near Acre as flames neared residential areas.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 27, 2023
Authorities said later Saturday that they had detained three suspects for questioning over another fire in the Karmiya Forest just north of Gaza.
As a result of the various incidents, the Fire and Rescue Services issued an order barring Israelis from lighting fires in open fields for the remainder of the day.
Temperatures soared across the country as dust and haze clouded the skies, reaching 35-40°C (95-104°F) at various locations.
שריפה פרצה ביער כרמיה: בשלב זה אין שליטה באש, כוחות משטרה פועלים לאיתור ופינוי מטיילים מהאזור, במקביל למאמצי הכיבוי
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) May 27, 2023
Many in Israel were taking advantage of the Shavuot holiday’s long weekend to travel and hike, complicating the situation for authorities.
Due to the extreme weather conditions, Fire and Rescue Commissioner Eyal Caspi signed an order prohibiting the lighting of fires in open areas throughout the country from 8:00 a.m.
The order will remain in effect for 24 hours and came amid concerns that the dry, hot weather and strong winds could increase the chance of fires spreading.
The ban applies to lighting fires in parks, forests and nature reserves.
משעות הבוקר התרחשו 71 אירועי שריפה בשטחים פתוחים.
הכוחות הקרקעיים וטייסת הכיבוי אלעד פועלים בשעה זו לבלימת התפשטות האש במספר אירועי שריפה:
מחוז צפון-טורען, מחוז צפון -עילוט,מחוז דרום-קיבוץ כרמיה,מחוז מרכז -בישוב צור משה סמוך לנתניה,מחוז חוף -כפר מזרעה pic.twitter.com/ud1nUnhWLG
— כבאות והצלה לישראל (@102_IL) May 27, 2023
The vast majority of forest fires in Israel are manmade and are usually the result of negligence.
Israel experiences long, hot and dry summers, with conditions ripe for wildfires. Large blazes broke out in 1989, 1995, 2010, 2015, 2019 and 2021.
Climate models show that such large-scale blazes are getting more frequent and more fast-spreading, in part due to the climate crisis raising temperatures and causing even more extreme summers with drier conditions.
Meanwhile, six young people were rescued at the Sea of Galilee after they were swept out by strong winds. Lifeguards from a number of nearby beaches were dispatched to save the group.
With rain forecast in some parts of the country, and wintery conditions expected to worsen on Sunday and Monday, authorities said there was also a chance of potentially dangerous flash floods.
Police advised the public to stay away from riverbeds in the south during the coming days and said motorists should under no circumstances attempt to drive through bodies of water.
Last month, brother and sister Ma’ayan, 24, and Sahar, 17, Assor, both residents of the northern city of Tiberias, were killed after their car was carried away by a flash flood in southern Israel.