Brushfire Spreads Near Jerusalem; Moshav Evacuated

Twenty firefighting teams rush to scene of massive brushfire; Even Sapir evacuated to save lives.

Tova Dvorin, | updated: 14:59

Firefighting plane (illustration)
Firefighting plane (illustration)
Ari Dudkevitch/Flash 90

The Even Sapir moshav has been evacuated Sunday afternoon, after a brushfire spread through the forests just outside Jerusalem. 

The Fire Department reported that eight firefighting planes with flame retardant material were dispatched to assist the ground forces and other aircraft were put on alert immediately.

Twenty separate firefighting teams are reportedly at the scene. Three firefighters have been injured fighting the blaze. 

Meanwhile, the moshav has been evacuated to save the lives of the residents. Several homes have already been lit aflame. 

"The entire moshav has been evacuated," fire department Jerusalem-area spokesman Udi Gal told Walla! News Sunday afternoon. "There are eastern winds pushing the fire towards the community and setting homes on fire." 

He added that there is a danger to surrounding communities that the fire will spread further. 

The Israel Police has closed routes 386 and 395 to the moshav due to the fire.

Motorists are encouraged to use Route 443 instead of Route 1 to commute between Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv area until the blaze can be contained. 

Teams of experts from Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael (KKL-JNF) are also on the ground helping firefighting teams. 

Negligence or terrorism?

A similar set of fires tore through the hills south of Jerusalem last week, particularly near the Beit Shemesh area. 

On Sunday, Shlomi Saadoun, a fireman from the Beit Shemesh Fire Brigade, noted that the investigation so far indicates that the fire started because of the negligence of one of the farmers in the region. He urged residents to be careful with extinguishing campfires and cigarettes, noting that weather conditions - extreme, dry heat - have exacerbated an already-raging brushfire problem. 

Fires are common in Israel during the summer, as the dry and arid desert heat can easily fan the flames of dying campfires.

However, terrorists have also used the weather as an excuse to commit arson across multiple points in Israel, and a wave of large forest fires last year was attributed, at least in part, to deliberate attempts to overwhelm firefighting forces and destroy property. 

The 2010 Carmel fire near Haifa, considered one of Israel's worst and which killed 44 people, was suspected by police to have been started by two Arab youths from the Druze village of Usafia. Nevertheless, the criminal case against them was closed in 2011 over "insufficient evidence."