Winter finally arrives, Carmel inferno extinguished

Monday, December 06, 2010 |  Ryan Jones

Winter finally arrived in Israel on Monday morning, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The winter rainfall that Israel has been desperately waiting for since the season officially began several months ago gave firefighters the final push they needed to fully extinguish the enormous wildfire that had consumed the Carmel forest reserve.

The Carmel fire burned for over 80 hours starting last Thursday, consumed 15,000 acres of forest, burned over five million trees, destroyed homes in a number of local villages and claimed the lives of 42 Israelis.

While the long-awaited winter rain did help final mopping up operations, it was the assistance of firefighting teams from across Europe, the Middle East and even the United States that helped Israel push back the destructive flames. More than 30 foreign firefighting aircraft took part in the battle, including the Evergreen Supertanker, the largest firefighting aircraft in the world.

Israeli authorities held farewell ceremonies at Air Force bases in northern Israel on Sunday to thank and see off the foreign firefighters. Each of the 192 foreign firefighters were awarded Air Force medals for their bravery and assistance in Israel’s time of need.

A number of the foreign teams remained in Israel on Monday just in case the wildfire reignited.

The winter rains should help prevent the fire from erupting again, as the northern forests finally have some moisture.

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