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Golan wildfire prompts evacuations as firefighters try to contain blaze

Residents of Kfar Haruv later allowed to return home, as flames pushed away from homes, but fires still burning in other areas

Fires burn near the community of Kfar Haruv on the southern Golan Heights on July 31, 2022. (Fire and Rescue Services)
Fires burn near the community of Kfar Haruv on the southern Golan Heights on July 31, 2022. (Fire and Rescue Services)

Large wildfires broke out in the Golan Heights Sunday, prompting evacuations in one town as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze.

Six firefighting teams, six planes, and volunteers from the Jewish National Fund were working to extinguish the blaze on Sunday evening, officials said.

The fires broke out along the Route 98 highway outside the community of Kfar Haruv in the southern Golan, near the border with Jordan.

The blaze came during a heat wave in Israel, with temperatures reaching above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in recent days.

The Fire and Rescue Services said the first line of homes in the town were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Residents were later allowed to return as firefighters brought the section of the blaze under control. No injuries were reported.

A wildfire in the Golan Heights on July 31, 2022. (Courtesy: KKL)

Though the fire was no longer deemed a threat to Kfar Haruv, other parts of the blaze continued to rage and firefighters were expected to continue working to extinguish it well into the night, authorities said.

Israel experiences a wave of massive wildfire every few years, with especially large ones in 1989, 1995, 2010, 2016, 2019 and 2021. Some of those blazes are suspected to have been sparked by arson or negligence.

 

Climate models show that such fires are getting more frequent and more fast-spreading, in part due to climate change bringing rising temperatures and a longer dry summer season.

Governmental authorities and other bodies ramped up efforts to prepare for this summer’s wildfire season, clearing underbrush and other overgrown flora that could provide fuel for brush fires.

Fires burn near the community of Kfar Haruv on the southern Golan Heights on July 31, 2022. (Fire and Rescue Services)

A 2017 government report recommended establishing a single supervisory body to oversee a coordinated nationwide effort to implement fire prevention measures in all Israel’s forests, irrespective of who owns or manages them. The recommendation has never been implemented.

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