A bushfire spread into a street in Tel Mond in the Sharon plains on Wednesday, causing gas tanks to explode and causing damage to the electricity infrastructure on the street. No one was hurt in the fire.
Firefighting teams gained control of the fire, which has spread to three homes, burning them to the ground.
A wheelchair-bound 80-year-old woman was rescued from one of the homes after her son and grandson, who live nearby and were home at the time, smelled the smoke, went outside to see what was happening and noticed the three homes on fire. They rushed to the grandmother's home, which also caught fire, and rescued her.
She was taken to a clinic in Tel Mond so doctors could assess her situation, while her home suffered significant damages in the fire.
A large forest fire was ranging the Nahal Sorek area near Beit Shemesh. Twenty firefighting teams and four firefighting aircraft were working to put out the fire, with more crews on their way.
Another fire broke out near the village of Mabu'im in southern Israel. Residents were asked to evacuate their homes due to concern the fire will spread.
In the Jerusalem area, two firefighting teams were working to put out a bushfire near a structure in Arab neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. Six people were lightly hurt and damage was caused to the structure.
Extremely high temperatures were forecasted to hit Israel on Wednesday, with 42 degrees Celsius expected in Tel Aviv, 40 in Haifa and "only" 37 in Jerusalem.
The Fire Department was preparing for the heat wave with 600 men at fire houses. Twelve firefighting aircraft are at the ready and the public has been warned not to make any fires, including bonfires. Magen David Adom has released special directives fearing cases of dehydration. Meanwhile, the Education Ministry has cancelled field trips in areas expected to be affected by the extreme heat.
The heat wave is expected to break by Thursday morning, and there will be a change in the weather with a rainy weekend forecasted. The heat wave will first break on along the coastline and then gradually inland. Eastern Israel will continue to be hot and dry, accompanied by strong winds. In the Kinneret, the Jordan Valley and in the Negev region, the hot and dry weather will continue and may get even more extreme.
On Friday, a steep drop in temperatures is expected along with a rise in humidity. Rain is possible in the North and centeral Israel. On Saturday, the drop in temperatures will continue and temperatures will be lower than usual for the season. Rain is likely in the North and central Israel.
Dr. Baruch Ziv, a meteorologist from the Open University, explained that "today there will be a classic spring heat wave. In April, a heat wave of this sort could reach 40 degrees Celsius. When it occurs in May, we can reach very high temperatures. Normally, the system which creates heat waves is weakened in May but this year May has had many days with strong south-easterly winds."
He added that there was a strong possibility that the temperatures this week will be record-breaking.
"There is a great possibility that in many places last week's records will be broken," Dr. Ziv said. "There is a struggle between two factors: one is the flow of hot air from the desert, and the other are mid-level clouds that will cover the sky. It is possible they will moderate the heat, but in my opinion, the area of land that will have over 40 degrees Celsius weather will be notable. This doesn’t mean that the weather this coming summer will be exceptional."
The Fire Department is preparing to deal with a record number of incidents. The head of the operations branch of the Israel Fire and Rescue Services, Officer Shmulik Friedman, said that "besides the heat, we are also worried about low humidity and winds. I must highlight that this is coming after a string of very hot and dry days. For us this is a danger. We are highly coordinated with the police, the army, JNF-KKL, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and of course the aerial firefighters. We have reinforced forces throughout the whole country in a truly unprecedented manner".
Firefighters in Haifa and in the North are following weather forecast updates and are prepared for the heat wave. Despite the high temperatures, the Fire Department points out that last week's heat wave was accompanied by strong winds, which is not what is expected on Wednesday.
At fire houses, all on-call units were reinforced, and points of manned take-offs were only opened for extreme situations. Moreover, the amount of firefighting airplanes on guard in the North were doubled and there are thus four planes available.
Magen David Adom spokesman Zaki Heller pointed out that "on days like this, when temperatures jump, we have an increase in cases of dehydration, fainting and fatigue, and we beseech those most vulnerable, the old, children, babies and the chronically ill, to pay attention to our instructions."
Deputy head of the IDF Operations Directive, brig.-gen. Shuki Ziso, said police will provide situation updates in coordination with all regional police stations and with the heads of Israel emergency services, and if necessary a special command post will be established. Police emergency call centers will be reinforced. Ziso has directed rescue units to be especially ready in order to help tour groups if necessary, including a concern for dehydration. The aerial police unit will be ready to aid firefighters in the event of fires spreading, so that a helicopter will report to a command center on access roads for firefighters and the evacuation of people if necessary.
The Israel Electric Corporation said Tuesday that due to the expected heat wave they will not cut off service to clients that are in debt to the company. The company pointed out that despite overall readiness, faults can occur.
Roi Yanovsky, Michal Margalit, Gilad Morag contributed to this report.