The massive blaze that threatened Kibbutz Harel on Thursday was likely caused by a falling electric cable in a nearby town; six homes were damaged there. In Mevo Modi'im, 40 of the town's 50 homes were damaged and thousands of residents from those two regions spent the night at hospitality centers. Emergency services battled multiple wildfires throughout the country on Thursday.
Residents describe the hard feeling of having to flee for their lives as they watched the fire engulf the woods around their homes, not knowing if they would have where to return to when it was over.
Firefighter spokesman Udi Gal said Friday morning that the advance of the fires has been stopped and the main focus at the moment is in the area of Tarom, just north of Beit Shemesh in the Judean hills. The conflagration at Harel was mostly under control, he said.
However, because the weather remains quite dry and the temperature is expected to rise even further Friday, after two days of unseasonably high temperatures, firefighting officials are warning the public to refrain from lighting fires outdoors and to heed instructions from emergency services.
On Thursday, Israel reached out to countries including Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Croatia for assistance in dealing with the wildfires. Due to recent tensions between the two countries, help was not requested from Turkey.
Israelis sizzled in sweltering heat, as the weather reached scorching temperatures across the country. By Thursday afternoon, Tel Aviv and the northern city of Haifa both saw some 40 degrees celsius. In the southern city of Be’er Sheva, temperatures rose to 44 degrees, while the Dead Sea region experienced 48 degrees.
Firefighting brigades mobilized all available units and are using planes and dozens of fire trucks to try to stamp out the flames still burning in several locations.
Firefighting services said that some of the fires might have started as a result of Lag B’Omer bonfires not being extinguished properly overnight.