The 82-hour fire claimed the lives of 41 people, burnt dozens of homes, destroyed thousands of acres of land, and raised many difficult questions.
The Carmel wildfire began as a fascinating cloud of smoke on a dry, sunny day. According to an initial Ynet report, the fire broke out near the Druze village of Usfiya and threatened a northern town and prison.
Four hours later, tragedy struck when a bus carrying Israel Prison Service cadets caught fire on its way to evacuate prisoners. Ynet brings you a summary of the national disaster, minute after minute:
Thursday, December 2
12:02 pm Big forest fire breaks out near Usfiya. No injuries reported, but fire threatens houses. Many firefighting teams dispatched to area.
12:38 Firefighters evacuate prisoners from Damon Prison.
1:06 Firefighters evacuate Beit Oren and the Carmel Forest spa resort.
1:46 Huge fire: "It looks like a nuclear mushroom cloud'.
2:11 Police looking into suspicions that Carmel fire started in illegal garbage site near Usfiya. "It was just a matter of time before a disaster would happen," says Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav.
2:36 The Environmental Protection Ministry urges Carmel residents to stay inside their homes for fear of intoxication.
3:30 New blaze erupts near Beit Oren; winds inflame fire.
3:52 Police: Passengers trapped in bus travelling between Damon Junction and Atlit Junction.
4:07 Man moderately injured in fire taken to Beit Oren.
4:24 Magen David Adom: Some 50 people injured, 11 of them critically, on a bus caught in fire.
4:58 MDA: At least 40 killed on burning bus.
Russian firefighting plane joins efforts (Photo: AP)
5:18 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancels all his plans, appoints special team.
5:33 Prime minister asks for foreign countries' help.
6:19 IDF and firefighting forces dispatched to Carmel region.
6:54 Police order evacuation of Nir Etzion, Ein Hod and Ein Hawd.
7:02 Cleared for publication: Israel Prison Service cadets killed on burning bus.
7:53 Cleared for publication: Haifa Police Commander Ahuva Tomer critically injured in fire.
8:47 Prime Minister Netanyahu arrived at northern command post.
8:59 Despite tensions: Turkey sends aid to extinguish fire.
9: 02 Prison Six, Prison Four, Kibbutz Hahotrim and Megadim evacuated.
9:04 Jewish National Fund estimates 10,000 dunam (2,470 acres) destroyed.
9:45 Prime Minister Netanyahu: I'll declare national day of mourning.
10:30 More than 10,000 people evacuated from their homes.
Carmel on fire (Photo: Israel Police)
Friday, December 3
The prime minister's efforts to receive aid from Europe bore fruit, and the first planes arrived in Israel and began putting out the fire. Blazes continued to rage together with strong winds. The Coastal Highway was closed to traffic for a short while, and many Israelis visited the scenes of fire out of curiosity, despite the police's repeated requests. Tens of thousands of residents were evacuated; homes caught fire in Ein Hod and Nir Etzion.
12:56 am Residents evacuate from Haifa's Denya neighborhood.
6:25 Route 4 closed to traffic.
6:41 30,000 dunam (7,400 acres) of land burnt.
7:08 Some 100 Bulgarian firefighters join efforts to contain fire.
8:23 Greek firefighting planes land at Air Force base in Ramat David.
9:04 Residents evacuated in Tirat Carmel for fear fire will return to houses.
9:34 Planes and helicopters from Europe go into action.
10:00 Cabinet ministers convene for special meeting.
10:34 Coastal Highway closed to traffic between Zichron Yaacov and Haifa.
1:54 Ten firefighting planes operate simultaneously in Carmel region.
4:01 Cleared for publication: Police Commander Lior Boker killed in Carmel fire.
Fire won't stop raging (Photo: Dana Friedlander, Ofek aerial photos)
Saturday, December 4
Saturday was marked by the identification of more victims' bodies. The fire continued to rage but foreign aid planes finally came into action, including a giant Russian aircraft. As part of its investigation police arrested two brothers from Usfiya for suspected arson. Interior Minister Eli Yishai refused to take responsibility for the governmental failure.
7:46 am Among the victims: 16-year-old volunteer firefighter.
8:39 Body of Yitzhak Malina, senior Haifa police officer identified.
9:33 Body of 41st victim identified: Firefighter Uri Semandayev.
10:23 Giant Russian plane 'Ilyushin 76' lands in Israel.
10:35 Initial inquiry: Fire caused by negligence.
3:22 pm Israel rents US firefighting plane Supertanker.
4:18 Residents of Tirat Carmel, Denya neighborhood allowed to return home.
4:53 Two brothers from Usfiya arrested for negligence which caused fire.
5:37 Burned Prison Service bus cleared from area.
8:02 PM Netanyahu: No shame in asking for foreign aid.
8:52 Interior Minister Eli Yishai: I acted, previous ministers didn't.
9:07 Air Force officials: Fire in lowest level since beginning.
10:52 Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Fire due to Shabbat desecration.
11:32 Two US Hercules planes land in Israel.
Israel on fire, as seen in satellite image (Photo: AP)
Sunday, December 5
The last day of the fire was marked by the victims' funerals. Twenty-seven victims were laid to rest across Israel after one of the deadliest disasters Israel has known. The American Supertanker aircraft joined fire extinguishing efforts and after 82 hours the blaze was finally extinguished. A public discussion on the government's responsibility will ensue as the bereaved families will be forced to come to terms with their own private disasters. Residents of the Carmel region returned to their homes and started to pick up the pieces. Now it will be the state's turn to restore the damaged infrastructures and landscape.
2:27 am World's largest fire extinguishing plane, the Supertanker, lands in Israel.
6:24 Fire extinguishing planes resume action.
9:00 Twenty-seven victims laid to rest across Israel.
9:45 Commander Ahuva Tomer's condition slightly improves; her life is still in danger.
10:00 Cabinet convenes for weekly meeting in Tirat Carmel.
10:12 Supertanker douses water between Nir Etzion and Daliyat al-Carmel.
10:54 Fire centers: Hai-Bar area; Mount Shokef, Yemin Orde and Nit Etzion.
12:44 pm Damage in Hof Hacarmel Regional Council estimated at NIS 121 million ($33 million).
1:03 Remand of teens suspected of arson extended.
2:23 Police helicopter reports: No more major fire centers.
4:42 Carmel fire under control after 77 hours.
6:31 Investigators: Massive fire could not have been avoided.
9:07 Electricity resumes in Ein Hod, Ein Hawd and Yemin Orde.
Over 5 million trees were burned, 74 structures were entirely annihilated in Kibbutz Beit Oren, Ein Hod and Yemin Orde and 173 structures were partly burned. Roughly 17,000 people were evacuated from their homes and various Prison Service facilities, hospitals and military jails in the course of five days. The Magen David Adom said that 33 people were wounded, out of them three in serious condition and three in moderate condition.
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