Mount Carmel disaster from firefighter's point of view: Avner Ben Menachem has been a firefighter for two years, and previously fought fires as a volunteer for eight years. However, during his time confronting the flames he became hooked on another love: photography.
The combination of firefighting and photography has led to fascinating documentation of the fires on Mount Carmel through the lens of someone on the front line.
Ben Menachem and comrades fighting the Carmel fire
Ben Menachem was among the first firefighters to reach the location where the bus carrying prison services trainees was consumed by flames, leaving dozens dead. Ben Menachem, who takes his camera whenever he is called to fight fires, took advantage of pauses in the battle to photograph what has since been called one of Israel's greatest disasters.
The wreck of the bus carrying prison services trainees
"I was on regular shift on Thursday, in Ramat Gan, and at about noon we began receiving information about what was going on in the Carmel region," says Ben Menachem, who was then taken north with his comrades to assist. "Nobody had any idea of the extent of the blaze."
Ben Menachem documents his comrades in action
"As we approached Beit Oren we heard over the radio about people being trapped in a bus, and didn't realize it was so close to us," he tells Ynet.
Fire-engines in the thick smoke
"We made our way between the flames and thick smoke that covered the winding road, and within a short time, just a few minutes, we saw the terrible seen through the smoke: A blazing bus surrounded by bodies in terrible condition. We began acting immediately."
Ben Menachem and his comrades then went to assist in firefighting in Beit Oren. "As an urban fire station, we usually concentrate on saving what's inside a blazing home, but there was nothing to save in the Beit Oren houses," he says.
"The fire had a very firm grip of the houses," he recalls. "We did what we could to prevent the fire spreading to nearby houses. In one case, we went through a house next to a house that was already in flames, and we found a boiling-hot gas canister. We quickly took it to an isolated location, thus saving the house from an explosion and extensive damage. All this was done in complete darkness, using only torches."
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