Massive wildfires burn west of Jerusalem, 10,000 evacuated from their homes

Firefighters say that the cause was arson, perpetrators not yet caught.

By World Israel News Staff

In what was the second major wildfire in the Judean Hills this month, six communities west of Jerusalem were evacuated Sunday afternoon, and several roads were closed to traffic.

A thick cloud of smoke stretched over much of the capital as hundreds of firefighters from across the country were working to gain control over the blaze.

Several homes were burned. Firefighters say that the cause was arson, but they have no information about the culprits at this point.

At least 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes, police said. Rescue helicopters from the Air Force’s Unit 669 were launched to rescue patients and staff of the Eitanim Psychiatric Hospital, which was evacuated as well. The director of the Prime Minister’s Office is ascertaining that their needs be fully met.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett interrupted the discussion of the political-security cabinet due to the fire to hold an emergency consultation regarding the fire. He emphasized that people must act with utmost caution, adding: “If there is doubt, there is no doubt. In any doubt that arises regarding the need for evacuation, the stringent approach must be taken, and everyone evacuated.”

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The Prime Minister noted that the Defense Ministry and IDF would assist the fire and rescue services in their efforts as per need and without restriction. He also directed that he be updated should the need arise for enlisting aerial assistance from other countries in extinguishing the fire.

Participating in the discussion were the Public Security Minister, the Interior Minister, the Israel Police Inspector General, the Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner, the head of the National Security Council, the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary, the Jerusalem District Police Commander and other senior officials.

Defense Minister Bnei Gantz, in coordination with Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, ordered assistance from the Home Front Command.

No serious injuries were reported.

While safeguarding the firefighters and providing emergency medical coverage for the operation to combat the blaze, we were alerted to an injured firefighter, who had come from the center of the country to assist in combatting the blaze,” United Hatzalah volunteer EMT and ambulance driver Gedaliah Weldman said.

“The firefighter fell while working to put out the fire and sustained an injury to his limbs. After receiving initial medical treatment at the scene, the firefighter was transported in one of United Hatzalah’s ambulances to Ichilov hospital. He is listed as being in moderate to light condition.”