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      Israel Prepares for Summer with New Firefighting Planes

      The first squad of new firefighting planes since the Carmel forest fire catastrophe last year arrives Wednesday as the dry summer nears.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 3/30/2011, 10:04 AM / Last Update: 3/30/2011, 10:59 AM

      Air Tractor

      The first squad of three new firefighting planes since the Carmel forest fire catastrophe last year is scheduled to arrive at the Dov Airport in Tel Aviv on Wednesday as the dry, hot summer approaches.

      The Carmel fire, which killed 44 people, exposed the country’s lack of aerial firefighting planes. Foreign countries as far as away as the United States helped extinguish the inferno with supertankers.

      The new squadron of planes will be named Elad Riven, in memory of the teenage volunteer who was killed while fighting the huge blaze that engulfed a bus of prison wardens who were on their way to evacuate prisoners from a nearby jail.

      The fire also destroyed tens of thousands of trees in the richly forested Carmel Hills region.

      The Air Force will be responsible for operating the newly established firefighting unit. The new planes were bought by Elbit Systems and Chim Nir Flight, which won a government tender to buy the aircraft.

      The planes will be based at the Megiddo airfield, located in the Lower Galilee between the Mediterranean Coast and the Jordan Valley, near Israel’s northern region that is prone to forest fires.