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National parks closed, hiking banned over wildfire warning

Decision comes with weekend set to see unseasonably high temperatures; nationwide fire ban in effect until November 30

Illustrative: Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at moshav Givat Ye'arim outside Jerusalem on August 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Illustrative: Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at moshav Givat Ye'arim outside Jerusalem on August 16, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Numerous national parks were closed to hikers over the weekend amid fears that hot and dry conditions could lead to large wildfires breaking out.

The Nature and Parks Authority announced Friday that all hiking paths in the Carmel Forest region (except for the Me’arot River reserve) were off-limits, as well as all trails in the Judean Mountains and Shfela region. The Amud Stream reserve in the Galilee was also closed, and all hiking on paths along the coast was prohibited between Hadera in the north and Zikim in the south.

The closure — effective through Sunday — comes as the country is poised to be gripped with unseasonably warm weather on Saturday, reaching highs of 89°F (31°C) in the Dead Sea region, 82°F (27°C) in Haifa, and 86°F (30°C) in Tel Aviv.

A nationwide fire ban, instituted earlier this week, remains in effect until November 30.

The weather warnings come as Israel continues to experience above-average temperatures and little rainfall.

Some of Israel’s most devastating fires have come in November and December, including the December 2010 Carmel Fire which claimed 44 lives, and a nationwide outbreak of fires in late November 2016, which left thousands homeless.

Israel is still recovering from an August wildfire near Jerusalem which consumed some 25,000 dunams (6,200 acres) of forest, becoming the country’s largest-ever blaze.

At the time, Israel had been sweltering under yet another heatwave with low humidity, providing ideal conditions for the flames to spread.

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