The Israel Fire and Rescue Services issued restrictions on the lighting of Lag B'Omer bonfires on Wednesday evening as several cities barred them altogether as high temperatures, dry weather and strong eastern winds increased the danger of fires breaking out.
"I call on parents and children to pay heed to the safety instructions, which include lighting small fires and keeping away from forests and groves and flammable materials that could endanger human lives and property," said Fire Commissioner Dedi Simchi.
Among other things, the Fire Department barred the lighting of bonfires in wooded areas and said bonfires must to be at least 300-500 meters away from forests and groves.
In addition, bonfires must be at least 60 meters away from gas and fuel facilities and at least 20 meters away from power and phone lines. Bonfires must also be at least 40 meters away from residential structures and at least six meters away from other bonfires. The base of the bonfire must not exceed three meters, and the wood must not be piled higher than 1.5 meters.
Several cities, including Haifa, Nesher and Kiryat Yam in the north, Holon, Yavne and Givatayim in the center, and Be'er Sheva in the south barred the lighting of bonfires altogether, while Kiryat Bialik's municipality recommended residents not to light bonfires.
"Just two years ago, the city of Haifa experienced a fire that spread quickly and caused great damages and mortal danger. We won't take a risk when our residents' safety is concerned," Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said.
The Haifa municipality's education department also instructed all education institutions and community centers not to light bonfires. Instead, the education department recommended holding community events for Lag B'Omer without bonfires.
Local police and other municipality personnel will be patrolling the city to stop the lighting of bonfires and prevent the spread of blazes.
Ashdod's mayor also barred community bonfires, while the municipality's education department urged parents not to hold class and school bonfires. The city also released safety instructions for those who do decide to light bonfires.
The Petah Tivka municipality decided to allocate special areas for bonfires and urged residents not to light small bonfires but rather attend community bonfires.
In Hadera, residents were asked to only light bonfires in areas prepared for that purpose and follow the Fire Department's instructions.
Other large cities in the Tel Aviv area decided to limit the areas where bonfires are allowed in order to make it easier to monitor and control the fires. Tel Aviv published a list of 21 approved areas where bonfires can be lit, saying bonfires lit anywhere else would be put out.
The Jewish National Fund (JNF), a non-profit land reclamation and afforestation organization, made clear that fires should not be lit in forests or groves, and not even in parking lots or open spaces near them.
"Due to the weather conditions, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services decided to bar bonfires in all wooded areas, even in ones designated for this," the JNF stated, forbidding people from lighting bonfires in territories owned by the organization and noting that the distance between any such bonfire and a wooded area "should exceed 500 meters."
The JNF owns about 13% of the total land in Israel, and since its inception has planted over 240 million trees in the country.
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also called on the public to adhere to fire safety instructions.
"According to the Halacha (Jewish law), despite the importance of the holiday, all must adhere to the safety instructions," Yosef wrote in a message ahead of Lag B'Omer, while Netanyahu urged to trust the fire department's expertise and experience and avoid bonfires, adding that "if you have to, then you should at most have a barbecue at your house."
Rotem Elizera, Ahiya Raved, Alexandra Lukash, Nir Cohen, Itay Blumenthal and Yishai Porat contributed to this story.