"We lost the most beautiful forest in the country," an Usfiya resident said Sunday following the huge fire which broke out in the Druze village and destroyed dozens of acres of land and millions of trees on Mount Carmel.
As the wildfire was nearing its end, the village residents rushed to criticize the authorities' conduct.
According to Nissim Mansour, Usfiya's residents have been suffering for years from the garbage site in which the fire started. "The garbage site in Usfiya was burned several times, and firefighters were dispatched to the area to put it out. We have been suffering from this garbage for many years and don't know what to do."
He criticized the firefighters for not knowing the area and not being familiar with the state of the premises. "There is a serious problem here, which must be overcome. The firefighters don't know the names of the burnt places. For instance, when we call them to report a fire in area X, they go to Area Y and let the fire spread."
Mount Carmel on fire (Photo: Arik Nissimov, rescue services)
Another resident, Maer Halabi, wondered "how long will this garbage site remain in such a catastrophic condition? It makes us live in an unhealthy and dangerous environment, which puts people's lives in danger."
He called on the Health Ministry to interfere, accusing the authorities of seeking to "humiliate" Usfiya's residents and blame them for the fire. "It's impudent and unprofessional," Halabi said.
Herzl Zakat, an Usfiya store owner, said he believed the Carmel Forest burned down because there were not enough funds to maintain it.
"I personally alerted the firefighters many times, but until now the fires would go on endlessly. There are no JNF (Jewish National Fund) workers and no firefighting station in the Carmel Forest. Had there been a water-filling station inside the forest, the fire wouldn't have spread. So the infrastructure within the forest must be improved – it will reduce the level of danger at times of fires."
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