Fire crews fighting blaze’s spread towards Denya neighborhood of Haifa; 8,600 acres scorched in Carmel; planes forced to stop flying for the night; forest fires burn in lower Galilee near Tal-El, Kfar Mashad.

Over 8,600 acres (35,000 dunams) had burned in the Carmel fire, as of Friday evening. Firefighters said that it could take a week before they are able to extinguish the blaze, Channel 10 reported. Winds showed no sign of dying down overnight.

The Carmel fire is spreading in the direction of Haifa University. Firefighters said that strong winds were driving the fire towards the campus at high speeds. Firefighters were on the scene.

As crews fought to prevent the Carmel fire from spreading towards the Haifa neighborhood of Denya, several smaller fires broke out throughout the North. Most recently, a forest fire broke out in the early night-time hours near Tal-El in the lower Galilee.

Sometime after 6 p.m. Friday, a fire was reported near the Galilee village of Adi. Police said that there was no risk to life at the time, but some residents volutarilly evacuated their homes. The fire was under control an hour later.

In a forest adjacent to Kfar Mashad in the Nazereth area, another fire broke out in the evening. Firefighters were investigating the possibility of arson.

Earlier in the evening, a wildfire started near Route 70, south of Haifa in the southern Carmel mountains near Bat Shlomo. Routes 70 and 672 were closed to traffic for several hours. Firefighters successfuly put out that fire some time after 6 p.m.

At around 5 p.m., the fire-fighting planes were forced to halt their operations fighting the Carmel fire for the night. The aircraft will continue their operations at first light in the morning.

Earlier, Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the Post that there are 3 fire centers – Tzur Shalom, the Atlit – Tirat Hacarmel area, and the Carmel hillsides.

A Fire Department spokesman Friday morning told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that Haifa is no longer in danger from the brush fires.

The fire is now focused on the Carmel hillsides and the Atlit region of Route 4, the spokesman stated.

“We won’t put this out by today but we are aiming to significantly weaken the fire by sunset,” he added.

The spokeman’s statement came as northern Israel was in a state of emergency as the worst ever fire in the country’s history incinerated a bus carrying dozens of members of the Israel Prisons Service, killing everyone on board, destroying thousands upon thousands of dunams of forests on the Carmel Mountain ridge and injuring dozens.

By early Friday afternoon, fire had spread to new areas in the Carmel despite the efforts of firefighters who were aided by the first foreign firefighting aircraft which arrived to help control the blaze.

Firefighters were battling flames on several fronts, including Na’aman Junction, Chai Bar, the entrance to the village of Usfiya, and the area between Usfiya and Dalia.

Fire spread to the area west of Usfiya, though flames were low, Haifa firefighters said. Flames were centering 300 meters from the Ya’arot hotel in the Carmel.

At Nir Etzion the blaze was out of control, approaching homes and endangering citizens who returned to their homes and ignored police instructions. Police were forced to evacuate citizens using force.

Firefighters were on the ground at all locations and receiving aerial assistance in dousing the flames.

Eight foreign planes, three helicopters, three firetrucks, and over 150 foreign firefighters have arrived in Israel so far, with more expected.

The parts of routes 2 and 4 leading to that region of the country were closed, effectively closing off all major approaches to the North. Route 2 was subsequently reopened to traffic.

Aharonovitch: Kiryat Tivon blaze now under control; arson suspected

A blaze in Kiryat Tivon is now under control, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Friday. Police suspect that arson may also be behind the Kiryat Tivon fire.

Aharonovitch added that Haifa’s Denya area is safe and that fire has been pushed back from the area

“We are not sending fire crews into the forests, this is too dangerous. The focus is on planes. We have Israeli and foreign planes dousing the flames, and we need more planes,” said Aharonovitch.

Police: Residents near smoke should close windows

Police issued the following instructions to members of the public: Those residing in homes near the smoke are asked close their windows. In case members of the public are asked to evacuate, they are asked to shut off all gas mains, and close windows and screens to prevent fire from spreading.

Those evacuated are asked not to return to their homes until receiving instructions to do so. Members of the public should continue to listen to emergency services for ensured safety.

Firefighters gained control of flames threatening residential areas of Tirat Hacarmel on Friday, preventing the blaze from causing serious damage to homes, fire officials reported.

According to Jewish National Fund officials, over 20,000 dunams have been consumed and around 13,000 residents have been evacuated from their homes as a result of the blaze which has been spreading due to strong eastern winds.

Forty-two people have lost their lives in the blaze, according to Army Radio, including 36 Israel Prison Service members, two police officers and a volunteer firefighter. Three people remained in critical condition at Rambam Hospital in Haifa.

Additional number for information for affected families: 08 977-5717

Hotline for immigrants living in the North who might be in need of assistance: 1255081010

Police ask all volunteers not to approach fire zones. Volunteers should call Lev Ehad on 02 675 5150 for instructions, or 02 675 5185

Yaakov Katz and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.