Farewell ceremonies were held Sunday in the Nevatim and the Ramat David airbases in tribute to the foreign firefighting teams from 10 different countries around the world, which helped Israel fight the Carmel wildfire.
Additional ceremonies are scheduled to be held at the Haifa and Tel Nof Air Force bases on Monday.
Meanwhile, the foreign pilots and planes are still on call but may not be operated Monday as the fire continues to die down. Firefighters will continue operations from the ground. Should there be no unexpected developments, the crews will leave Israel on Monday.
The 192 foreign aid members were awarded IAF medals and each of the delegations was given a special diploma from Air Force Commander Major-General Ido Nechushtan.
Ramat David Airbase commander Colonel Ronen Simhi said, "There was excellent cooperation. A partnership that crossed boundaries, languages and cultures. All were focused on one task: Saving lives and the Carmel landscape."
"In the Air Force we say friends are measured in a time of need. The State of Israel found itself in trouble, in a disaster. You were there and proved to be true friends," said Nevatim Airbase commander Brigadier-General Eden Atias who took part in the supertanker sorties. "This is how we felt throughout the days we fought the fire together. I thank you on behalf of myself, the Air Force and the entire State of Israel. "
Goodbye ceremony (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The aerial fire extinguishing effort reached a climax Sunday with the arrival of the American supertanker plane
and is being coordinated out of a makeshift tent set up outside the Haifa University.
In an Air Force tent sat a Russian soldier observing his Israeli colleagues at work. The Russians were unimpressed with the Israeli mayhem. "They brought in their own satellite photos on a disc-on-key and were surprised to see us working on just one station," an Israeli officer said.
Supertanker aircract in action (Photo: Avishag Shaar Yeshuv)
The IAF command post is still preparing for the option of operating the foreign aircrafts on Monday mainly to cool down the burned areas.
The IAF officers said that only when a final word is given that the fire died down and will not return will they dismantle the command post and send the foreign planes back home. "The planes won out here," one officer said. "Without them we'd be in an entirely different place right now."