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Homes evacuated as firefighters struggle to contain forest fire near Beit Shemesh

Residents of Moshav Tarum leave as precaution; some begin spraying water to defend their houses; Lapid holds situational assessment

A wildfire burns in the President's Forest outside Moshav Tarum, near the city of Beit Shemesh, August 25, 2022. (Fire and Rescue Services)
A wildfire burns in the President's Forest outside Moshav Tarum, near the city of Beit Shemesh, August 25, 2022. (Fire and Rescue Services)

A forest fire outside the city of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, prompted the evacuation of homes in a nearby agricultural community on Thursday, as firefighters battled to bring the blaze under control.

Six planes and a police helicopter joined 20 firefighting teams to try and extinguish the fire, which broke out in the afternoon at the President’s Forest.

An additional 15 teams were on their way to the inferno, according to a Fire and Rescue Services statement.

The first line of houses closest to the fire in Moshav Tarum was cleared out, though Fire and Rescue services said there was no immediate danger to the buildings.

As of Thursday evening, the blaze had not been brought under control. No injuries or property damage were reported.

Residents of Tarum, meanwhile, sought to protect their homes by hosing them down, Ynet reported.

A wildfire burns in the President’s Forest outside Moshav Tarum, near the city of Beit Shemesh, August 25, 2022. (Fire and Rescue Services)

“All the neighbors came out with their hoses. My son and I simply sprayed water wherever we could,” Noa Itali told the news site.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid was updated Thursday evening on efforts to contain the blaze by local fire department chief Eyal Caspi. Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and military secretary Brig. Gen. Avi Gil also participated in the meeting.

According to a statement from the premier’s office, Lapid extended his gratitude to firefighters for their “quick action and protection of citizens’ lives.”

Israel experiences long, hot and dry summers, with conditions ripe for wildfires. Large blazes broke out in 1989, 1995, 2010, 2015, 2019, and 2021. Some of those blazes are suspected to have been sparked by arson or negligence.

Climate models show that such large-scale blazes are getting more frequent and more fast-spreading, in part due to climate change raising temperatures and causing even more extreme summers.

Governmental authorities and other bodies intensified efforts to prepare for the 2022 wildfire season, clearing underbrush and other overgrown flora that could provide fuel for brush fires.

A 2017 government report advised 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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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