The terrible firestorms that caused such devastating destruction in the north of
over the last days took me back 15 years to my own experiences in a forest fire. The fire that destroyed the entire forest around our farm in 1995 was the worst forest fire in Israel ’s history – until now. This fire is many times worse. But I know very well what people in the midst of it are going through. Israel
Pine forests, when they burn, quickly become uncontrollable. The dry pines, full of highly flammable resin, actually explode, shooting burning pine cones great distances, where they set more fires. These are extremely hot fires, and everything in their path is pretty much vaporized, all that is left is ash. They can skip areas and totally devastate adjoining spots.
The conditions were so familiar – even though the fire I went through was in July, and this one was in December, it was after a long period of very hot and dry weather, with strong and changeable winds that made the path of the fire unpredictable. In these hilly forested areas, access is also very difficult, both ground and air, making it even harder to extinguish the fire.
I experienced anew, in my mind, the panic, the terror of having my whole life’s possessions destroyed, and over everything else, my terrible fear for the fate of the dogs who were left trapped at home, and that I couldn’t get to. Fortunately, in my case, there was some power above that made the fire skip over my home and property, leaving animals and possessions unharmed, and burning everything around us. It takes years for a forest to regenerate – it is green around us again, but we will always remember the black. In this new fire, things did not work out so well – many people died, much property was destroyed, and it is still impossible to know how many wild and domestic animals died, despite great efforts to save them.
And all of this because of a small spark left unextinguished by careless people, and by the lack of interest of the politicians in modernizing our fire fighting capabilities…not sexy enough, I suppose…
(The full story of my own experience in a forest fire is in my book, Tails of Shaar Hagai)