Dozens of firefighting crews appeared to have finally contained a massive blaze outside the city of Beit Shemesh Friday night after over nine hours, officials announced, in what was said to be the largest fire in recent years.
The large brush fire consumed over 1,500 dunams (370 acres) of forest near the city before the 70 crews and 12 planes managed to bring it under control.
Fire and Rescue Commissioner Shahar Ayalon called the effort to quell the conflagration the largest firefighting operation since 2010’s Carmel fire, which raged in the forests near Haifa for four days and claimed 44 lives.
Officials said the fire was thought to have been the result of negligence, and not arson. They added that it could yet reignite and that they would be keeping a close watch on developments throughout the night.
The fire had erupted in the afternoon and quickly spread throughout the woodlands. Residents of nearby communities had been warned to prepare for evacuation a firefighting crews worked around the clock to stamp out the flames. Sections of Route 44, which runs from Tel Aviv to Esthaol were closed to traffic in both directions.
The fire moved rapidly due to strong winds and sporadically changed direction, Ynet reported. Images from the scene of the blaze showed firefighters spraying water onto the flames while huge plumes of smoke billowed into the air.
There were no reports of casualties in Friday’s fire.