Northern Fire Moves Underground, Continuing to Burn Since May

A fire that broke out in a northern town in May has still not been put out – and is continuing to burn underground

Contact Editor
David Lev,

A fire burns out of control
A fire burns out of control
Yoni Kempinski

A fire that broke out in the northern community of Ma'alot Tarshicha in May has still not been put out – and is continuing to burn underground, fed by trash and tree cuttings and mulch in a municipal dumping ground. Residents of the area complain of seeing smoke at all hours of the night, and seeing flames jump out of the ground at times. In a number of instances, the underground flames ignited a blaze above ground, requiring firefighter assistance to control the blaze.

Residents have expressed concern over not only the possibility of a major fire during the hot, dry summer, but also of the possible effects of the inhalation of smoke from the fires.

Residents of the area said that the original fire took place in May in the municipal dumping ground, which was mostly used for tree branches and other cuttings. That fire was quickly put out, but due to the amount of inflammable material and the depth of the tree cuttings, a slow-burning fire was set at the bottom of the dump. Meanwhile, the city continues to use the dump, supplying more fuel for the ongoing fire, residents said.

Environmental groups have been pressuring the local government to do something about the problem. City officials said that it was doing everything it could, including extending a water line to the site so that firefighters could use the line to pump water to put out any fires that crop up. While there was little that could be done at this point – except to wait for winter – the city said it was working to ensure that the problem did not occur again.