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Homes evacuated as forest fires threaten Jerusalem

Rescue services battle huge blaze outside Ramot, in Romema area at entrance to city; flames break out at other locations in north and south of country

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Fire fighters work to put out a fire that spread in the woods around Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood May 26, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Fire fighters work to put out a fire that spread in the woods around Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood May 26, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Residents were evacuated from their homes on several streets in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem Thursday as an enormous forest fire, fanned by high winds, swept toward the area.

Elsewhere in and around the capital, firefighters evacuated homes in Mevasseret Zion, west of the capital, and in Gilo in the city’s southeast.

Eight fire trucks and several firefighting aircraft were scrambled to tackle the Ramot blaze. The Jerusalem fire station called up all of its crews and sought assistance from other stations.

There were no injuries reported.

Another large blaze broke out Thursday afternoon in the city’s Romema neighborhood in the northwest, also prompting firefighters to begin evacuating homes in the area.

The Romema fire was said to be spreading toward the direction of Lifta, an abandoned Arab village right by the western exit of the city.

A video posted by Channel 2 showed the blaze in Mevasseret Zion.

In a message from the local administration center, residents of buildings on Hahoresh Street in Ramot and several adjoining roads that face the location of the fire were asked to leave their homes and lock the doors and windows.

Amir’s Ranch, a local horseback riding center located next to the neighborhood, was also evacuated.

The Jewish National Fund said it believed the flames were caused by a bonfire. Wednesday night marked the onset of the festival of Lag B’Omer, which is celebrated with bonfires across the country.

The Israel Electric Corporation said it would shut down the high-voltage power lines supplying electricity to north Jerusalem because of the flames. It was not clear if the move would interrupt the power supply to other areas of the capital.

Israel’s 9/11 monument, located on the slopes of a hill outside Ramot, was caught in the path of the fire and was likely to be damaged, said JNF, which wardens the forests, according to the Ynet website.

Other fires were reported in the south of the country.

Crews fought a series of brush fires near the town of Kiryat Malachi, southeast of Tel Aviv, with the help of helicopter, police said.

It was not immediately clear if any homes were threatened by the fires.

Meanwhile, the Ashdod fire station tackled a bush fire at Moshav Azrikam, while firefighters from the Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat stations were called out to deal with blazes at Moshav Ahuzim and Moshav Shalva.

In northern Israel, fires broke out on Mount Meron, a shrine visited by tens of thousands of Israelis on Lag B’Omer. Fires were also reported near Karmiel, in Israel’s north.

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