Over 40 firefighting squads from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh and two airplanes were deployed to the Even Sapir area to put out the blaze, and four other aircraft were said to be on their way to the scene. Fire and rescue services annouced that the flames have been contained around 5:30 pm.
Acting Jerusalem Police Commissioner Menny Yitzhaki said that four Palestinians have been arrested in connection with the fire. He noted, however, that the police is also looking into the possibility that the fire was caused by negligent behavior of hikers.
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Jerusalem Fire Department Chief Captain Shmulik Friedman said that the Fire and Rescue Services are scarcely prepared to handle major blazes.
"Our equipment is old; some of our trucks should have been disposed of long ago. And we are experiencing a firefighter shortage. For a country like Israel, the situation is unacceptable," he said, adding that "without the firefighting planes we would have been in serious trouble."
Firefighting aircraft near Jerusalem (Photo: Michal Ben-Naim)
Arik Abulof, a spokesman for the fire department, said earlier that the terrain surrounding the fire prevented access for fire trucks, and anticipated that it could take hours to put out the flames completely.
Several roads in the area were closed to traffic as the fire appeared to be progressing towards the town and the nearby Hadassah Ein-Kerem Medical center, although the authorities decided against ordering residents to evacuate.
Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Shahar Ayalon arrived at the hospital, where a control center was established. He said that it is too early to determine what caused the fire. He noted that due to the fact that the fire originated at multiple sites, the authorities are looking into the possibility that arson was involved.
Police forces patrolled the wooded area near the fire in search of hikers.
Carmel fire on Wednesday
A smaller fire in the Carmel region raged between Yokneam and Kiryat Tivon. Some 20 fire crews were called to battle the flames. Two firefighting aircraft have been scrambled and a police helicopter assisted the efforts. The area was partially inaccessible.
Haifa Fire Services Spokesman Yossi Ben Yossef said, "There is not danger to life or property as this is an uninhabited area."
A short while later a smaller brushfire broke out in Kiryat Tivon. Five firefighting squads managed to speedily gain control of the flames.
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