Aerial firefighting crews resumed their efforts to contain the huge wildfire in northern Israel's Carmel mountain range early Saturday morning.
During the night the deadliest fire in Israel's history reached Ein Hod, Nir Etzion and Yemin Orad. Severe damage to property was reported in Ein Hod.
The communities were evacuated Thursday, but some residents returned to their houses on Friday.
The flames also burned parts of the Hai-Bar nature reserve, from which the wild animals were released.
Special firefighting aircraft from Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Britain dumped sea water and flame retardant on the fire Saturday morning. A special plane from Russia, which is capable of holding up to 42,000 liters of water, also went into action on Saturday.
A total of 30 aircraft are set to be utilized in the efforts to contain the blaze throughout the day.
On Friday Firefighting and Rescue Services Spokesman Yoram Levy told Ynet “tomorrow we’ll deliver a serious blow” to the blaze.
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Meanwhile, the body of 16-year-old Elad Riven of Haifa, a volunteer firefighter who was killed while helping to battle the flames, has been identified. The blaze has claimed the lives of at least 41 people. Thirty-nine bodies have been identified so far. Five of those who were injured in the blaze, including Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer, remain hospitalized. Tomer's condition continues to be serious, though it has improved slightly.
As of Saturday morning, the fire's strongest point is near Ein Hod and Nir Etzion. The blaze is also raging near Ussifiya, and a home in the Druze community was evacuated. On Friday the fire moved closer to the University of Haifa and to the Denia neighborhood in the city, but the flames are not expected to reach residential areas.
"The homes and galleries are going to be decimated," an Ein Hod resident told Ynet overnight, while local artist Zvi Gerti said, "I fear that we are the next Beit Oren. We were only able to take a few of my documents and paintings, but dozens more were left behind."
Highway 4 was blocked after the fire spread to the western Carmel hills.
Early Saturday, four Border Guard police officers were lightly hurt by smoke inhalation after being trapped near the northern community of Ein Hod.
The four were rescued and taken to Rambam hospital in Haifa, Magen David Adom spokesman Zaki Heller said.
Israeli firefighters received massive assistance from many states worldwide, including Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Jordan, Britain, Turkey, France, the United States, Egypt, Italy, Croatia, Romania, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, and Spain. On Friday, the US Administration announced that it was dispatching three firefighting experts to Israel as well as large quantities of fire retardant chemicals.
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