Planes fight northern blaze
Photo: AFP

State late in buying fire retardants

Poor planning: Haifa Chemicals says offered authorities fire retardants after state supply used up

Firefighters began to use extinguishing materials donated by Haifa Chemicals Friday morning, after running out of fire retardants owned by the state.


Privately owned crop-dusting planes are currently using the 20 tons of donated chemicals to help Greek planes fighting the flames raging in Israel's northern forests.


But Israel Chemicals Ltd. said it had offered its storerooms for state use as early as Thursday, and that authorities had not responded to the offer.


Chim-Nir, a private dusting company responsible for aerial firefighting in Israel, usually uses a fire retardant purchased from France. But in the course of fighting the blaze Thursday the stock was discovered lacking, as a large number of fires have had to be put out in recent months and supplies were not renewed.


Chim-Nir ordered an emergency shipment from France early Friday, but it is scheduled to depart only at 11 am and arrive towards evening. In the meantime, Greek planes are using sea-water to fight the fire, using a technology Israel has so far refused to purchase.


The CEO of Chim-Nir, David Golan, said he had asked the Interior Ministry and the Treasury for funds to purchase additional chemicals, but was refused. The Finance Ministry has disputed this claim.


But Haifa Chemicals has a 200-ton supply of flame retardant chemicals called MAP, which are used in fire extinguishers. Ynet learned that the company offered this supply for state use when the blaze broke out, free of charge, but received the response that regulations prohibit the use of MAP chemicals for aerial firefighting.


Amihai Zeider, who runs Haifa Chemicals' plant at the city's port, says the company "practically had to beg for someone to take the materials from us".


On Friday morning Haifa Chemicals transferred its product to Israel Chemicals Ltd., which succeeded in delivering it to the authorities.


"This is crazy. Private companies are begging authorities to take their help for free, but because of all the brouhaha there is no one to talk to," said a company official.


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פרסום ראשון: 12.03.10, 13:32
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