AMMAN/ISFIYA, Israel (Agencies) –– Jordan’s civil defence teams have joined firefighters from several countries that rushed to help Israel fight a huge forest fire.

The Jordan News Agency, Petra, quoted an official source as saying Saturday that the government received an official request from the Israeli government a day earlier to take part in efforts to extinguish the fire, which erupted in Carmel Forest near Haifa on Thursday.

The source added that Jordan responded to the Israeli request immediately and sent three fire engines to help put out the blaze.

The Palestinians have also joined the international operation, President’s Mahmoud Abbas’ office said in a statement, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

“The three units of the Palestinian civil defence were sent to assist in extinguishing the fires in the Carmel,” the statement said.

The massive fire was still consuming swathes of land on Saturday, with little sign Israeli and foreign firefighters were winning the battle to contain it.

With 41 people dead and more than 17,000 people evacuated from their homes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upped efforts to recruit international help to fight the biggest inferno in Israel’s history.

As the blazes raged for a third straight day, Israel’s fire and rescue chief Shimon Romeah said they were still some way off from harnessing the blaze.

“At this stage, we are still far from controlling the fire. It is not us controlling the fire, [it is] the fire which is controlling us,” he told army radio.

“In many areas where we thought we had finished, the fire has reappeared. And it is starting up in places we thought we had saved, despite our efforts to contain it,” he said.

A firefighting chief, Boaz Riban, said high winds were making operations difficult.

Police said the blaze had destroyed homes in three areas overnight: in the artists’ village of Ein Hod, in Nir Etzion and in youth village Yemin Hod, all of which had already been evacuated.

A luxury hotel in the area, the Yarot Har Carmel, was also evacuated, army radio reported.

“We haven’t seen the end of it. We’re hoping for rain… to help us,” firefighter Dadu Vanunu told army radio.

As dawn broke, around 10 international water bombers resumed their work, flying sorties over the flames. They were supported by a recently arrived Russian aircraft capable of dropping 42,000 litres of water in one pass.

Smaller aircraft also dumped gallons of fire retardant in the hope of stopping the fire raging through a pine forest and a nature reserve just outside the northern port city of Haifa.

On the ground, more than 550 firefighters worked round-the-clock – around 450 Israelis backed up by some 100 firemen from Bulgaria. In the Druze village of Isfiya, hundreds of residents stood on rooftops and balconies, watching as the flames licked their way towards the village, an AFP correspondent said.

Overhead, small planes dumped clouds of orange fire retardant in the hope of boxing in the flames.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the 41 dead included 38 prison guards whose coach was trapped by the fire, two police officers and one 16-year-old boy who was volunteering with the fire service.

Another 17 people were injured, including three in serious condition and one listed as critical, while four others were still missing.

By nightfall on Friday, the fire had incinerated more than 10,000 acres of land, with flames reaching the southern outskirts of Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city.

As some 16 countries pledged assistance, Netanyahu said aerial reinforcements would be the only way to beat the blaze.

“It is clear that the battle to stop the fire will be decided from the air,” his office quoted him as saying. “I am working through all channels to quickly bring more and more firefighting planes to Israel to help with the battle from the air.”

Another nine planes were due to arrive on Sunday – five from Spain, three from the United States and one from Germany, he said.

Aircraft from Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Britain and Russia are already engaged in the massive operation, with others due to arrive from Italy, Romania, Switzerland, France, Croatia and Azerbaijan, the foreign ministry said.

In a phone call overnight, US President Barack Obama promised to send 45 tonnes of fire retardant as well as 12,000 litres of Class A foam, along with a team of experts with firefighting equipment, a White House aide said.

The Pentagon is also mobilising National Guard troops and assets equipped with targeted firefighting systems.

Police spokesman Rosenfeld said the cause of the fire was most probably negligence.

“An initial investigation shows the blaze was probably caused by negligence, maybe by people having a picnic in one specific area,” he told AFP, without saying where it had broken out.