JERUSALEM AREA FIRE: 17K Dunams Burned, Fire Begins Spreading Again, Hundreds Re-Evacuated

Damage caused by the massive wildfire near Jerusalem. (Photo: Israel Nature and Parks Authority)

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The massive blaze that broke out outside Jerusalem on Sunday continues to burn on Monday, and regained strength in the afternoon due to rising winds, especially in Nachal Kisalon, Givat Ye’arim, Har Hatayasim and near the Eitanim hospital.

The fire is spreading rapidly and Fire Commissioner Dedi Simchi ordered a general call-up of all firefighting forces nationwide and police are reportedly preparing to evacuate Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. However, the hospital issued a statement saying they have no intention of evacuating patients and visitors and are in constant contact with Israel Police.

Police had to re-evacuate hundreds of residents from Sho’eva, Givat Ye’arim, Kibbutz Tzuba, Ein Rafa and Ein Nakuba. Ten aircraft are fighting the fire near Kibbutz Tzuba and there are 65 firefighting crews, six aircraft, and a helicopter fighting the flames in other areas.

Earlier Monday, firefighters said that residential homes are no longer at risk and many residents that were evacuated were allowed to return home.

During the evacuation of the Eitanim psychiatric hospital in Givat Ye’arim on Sunday evening, two patients went missing but one was found before midnight. The other patient was found on Monday at midday.

The massive wildfire, which spread swiftly due to strong winds and high temperatures, scorched 17,000 dunams of forest land despite about 70 firefighting teams battling the flames on Sunday evening and throughout the night.

As a result of the fire, the pollution levels in the Jerusalem-area communities of Mevaseret Tzion, Shoresh, Shoeva and Neveh Ilan are very high on Monday, the Health and Environmental Ministries warned. The ministries issued a statement recommending that residents of those areas stay indoors as much as possible and close their windows. Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with heart or lung conditions should not go outdoors unless strictly necessary.

Police officers rescue a dog. (Israel Police)

“Everything is black, there’s no green,” a Shovea resident told Walla News. “It’s heartbreaking.”

“We saved entire towns from burning down,” Fire Commissioner Dedi Simchi said on Monday morning. Simchi also said that fire was definitely caused by people but it is not clear if it was accidental or deliberate. The fire began near Beit Meir, which has been the site of numerous arson attempts in the past.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with officials on Sunday night during the battle to subdue the fire. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)