Deal Reached on National Fire and Rescue Service
The government has agreed to establish a National Fire and Rescue Service, budgeted initially at NIS 1 billion. The current budget for fire services, NIS 700 million, is distributed among local fire services in the local authorities.
Sunday's decision by the Cabinet will increase that amount by NIS 300 million over the next six years, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office. However, NIS 100 million is to be allocated immediately, in 2013.
The Knesset Interior Committee was expected to approve the reform legislation Monday, ahead of its second and third readings in the plenum next Monday.
"I would like to thank the firefighters and their commander, Shahar Ayalon, who battle amidst the heat on the fire line. This war against fires is effective and we see the results,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the meeting.
“For the first time in many years, we are submitting a national fire service with one commander and two arms – the ground arm, which has been upgraded, and the aerial arm, which has been established.
“Part of these changes have already taken effect and what we have seen until today, that over 200 fires have been extinguished since the Carmel wildfire, without developing into massive fires, is the result of the upgrade that has been done," Netanyahu said.
“We are witnessing an historic day and are in a completely different place than where we were one and a half years ago,” Public Security Minister Aharonovitch added.
“There is a great change here. We saw the results yesterday as well, with the dramatic change effected by the planes and their many sorties. We have entered a new era and I hope that next Monday, we will have a law that we can all welcome."
Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner Ayalon said, "This is an historic process and an historic moment. Now, for me, the work on building a fire service begins. I would like to thank everyone for the expedited work on the reform."
Hundreds of fires have been ignited in the forested hills around Jerusalem in the past several weeks. Fire and police investigators contend that many were deliberately set by terrorists.
Several arrests have already been made in connection with some of the larger blazes that burned dozens of acres of forest land around the capital. An especially wide-ranging wildfire burned in the Jerusalem hills near Ein Hemed, and spread to Mevasseret Zion on Sunday this week. Nearly two dozen firefighting crews, and six firefighting aircraft were required to bring the blaze under control.