TEL AVIV (Sep. 21)
Five suspects are being held in custody on suspicion of setting a fire that destroyed some 4,000 acres of woodlands, parks and nature preserves on Mount Carmel near Haifa on Tuesday.
Arson has been clearly determined as the cause of the blaze, probably related to the Palestinian uprising.
A special commission appointed by the Interior Ministry to investigate the conflagration started work Thursday.
The fire, which lasted 36 hours, was virtually burned out by Thursday morning. But firefighting teams remained to guard the blackened area and to make sure still-glowing embers do not suddenly erupt into flames.
A new fire was reported at noon Thursday about a mile from the wildlife refuge. Two firefighting aircraft summoned to pour water from above.
Meanwhile, recriminations have begun between the various bureaucracies concerned with forest fires.
These include the Jewish National Fund’s afforestation services, the police and fire departments, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the various environmental lobbies.
Each seems to be accusing the others of faulty planning and faulty performance of duty during the fire.
There is a debate among afforestation experts over how long it will take before the damage to the Carmel range is repaired.
According to JNF, it will take another 50 years before the burnt trees are replaced by natural growth or plantings.
But other experts say that new saplings are already springing up from natural growth in an area hit by an equally devastating fire six years ago.