Forest fire near Kiryat Shmona forces home evacuations

Blaze started in nearby army post then spread toward northern city; no reports of injuries; municipality opens community centers to host turfed out residents

Screen capture from video of a forest fire near the northern border city of Kiryat Shmona, on August 12, 2021. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video of a forest fire near the northern border city of Kiryat Shmona, on August 12, 2021. (Twitter)

A large forest fire broke out Thursday afternoon near the border with Lebanon, forcing the evacuation of some homes in Kiryat Shmona and raising the air pollution in the northern city to dangerous levels.

The municipality asked residents living close to the blaze to close their windows and leave their homes to avoid breathing in smoke drifting over the area. Space was made available at the Beit Vancouver Community Center and the Arthur Fox community center to receive residents, the municipality said.

The health and environmental protection ministries issued a joint statement warning of high levels of air pollution across the city due to the fire.

After conducting tests, “very high concentrations of respirable particles were found” exceeding the levels to trigger alerts, the ministries said.

The elderly, children, pregnant women, and those with heart or lung issues were advised to avoid going outdoors and to remain in their homes with the windows closed and air conditioners on, the statement said.

The fire broke out around 4 p.m. inside a nearby military base, and spread toward civilian communities, according to the statement.

Four fire-fighting aircraft dumped retardant on the flames as firefighters worked to contain the fire, according to Hebrew media reports.

The road between Kfar Giladi and Kiryat Shmona was closed due to the blaze.

In the past two weeks, some 5,000 dunams (1,235 acres) of forest in the Ramim Ridge area were burned in fires caused by flares fired by the army, the Ynet website reported.

Northern municipal chiefs met with Fire and Rescue Commissioner Dedi Simchi and complained that not enough firefighting units were sent to deal with the flames. Simchi reportedly told them that units were needed to tackle other life-threatening fires, whereas the outbreak in the Ramim Ridge area did not pose a danger to human life.

During the recent hot, dry summer weather, there have been a number of forest fires in different locations around the country.

Last week a blaze near Jerusalem forced the evacuation of some homes in a community on the outskirts of the capital.

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