Highways closed across the country as fire fighting teams deployed to numerous brush fires in north, center and south; Meteorological Service had warned of high to extreme danger of conflagration due to unfavorable weather conditions

Gilad Cohen, Ahiya Raved, Raanan ben Tsur | Published: 05.31.21 , 15:11 Israel was hit by a spate of wildfires Monday as the country experienced a dusty and dry heatwave that sent temperatures as high as 40 degrees. The Meteorological Service had warned Monday morning of a high to extreme danger of fires, which played out across the country as the day progressed.

שריפה בבית שמש
A brush fire that broke out in Beit Shemesh on Monday
(Photo: National Fire and Rescue Authority)

In Beit Shemesh, a forest fire broke out shortly before 1pm in the Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood, which set alight an apartment in a nearby residential building.Seven fire crews were working at the site, two local apartment blocks were evacuated and the street was blocked to traffic. Almost simultaneously, a large fire was reported in the nearby Tzora Forest.”On such extreme days, the speed and intensity of our response are critical,” said Eyal Cohen, the deputy commander of Jerusalem District fire service. “In this case we have seen the fire spread not just in the forest but to homes as well, even skipping over a building to catch light on the other side in a way that threatens many people.” There were no casualties in the blaze, but property did sustain some damage.

שריפה בבית שמש
Fire fighters at the scene of a blaze in Beit Shemesh on Monday
(Photo: National Fire and Rescue Authority)

A short time earlier, five fire crews were called to a blaze raging in an open space in the Gedera area. The Route 40 highway, which runs from central Israel to the southern city of Be’er Sheva, was blocked from Kidron junction to Gedera junction and police had begun evacuating houses on a nearby street. Fire fighters soon took control of the fire, however, and the highway was reopened.Another section of Route 40 between Ahim Junction and Castina Junction near Ashdod was blocked in both directions minutes later due to another brush fire. The Nachshonim interchange on Route 6 was also closed due to a forest fire as five fire crews from Petah Tikva were dispatched to bring the blaze under control.

שריפות במחלף נחשונים
Fire fighters were dealing with a blaze close to Route 6 on Monday
(Photo: National Fire and Rescue Authority)

In the Kochav Yair area, fire fighters managed to halt the spread of a blaze towards nearby orchards and in Tzur Yitzhak, they put out several fires close to the entrance to the community. In Qalansawa, four teams of firefighters were trying to extinguish a large fire that broke out close to residential houses.Three fires also broke out in the area of the southern city of Kiryat Malachi, and firefighting planes were deployed to tackle them. Although the three blazes were not immediately doused, the National Fire and Rescue Authority said that the fires had been contained. Route 40 was again blocked to traffic in the area for a short time.

שריפה בחיפה
A brush fire in Haifa on Monday
(Photo: National Fire and Rescue Authority)

In Haifa, firefighters were also battling a brush fire that broke out between two streets in a residential part of the northern city, trying to stop the spread of the flames to local homes. Fire also broke out in the area of the poultry farms on Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin, near the northern city of Beit She’an.

שריפות בכפר רופין
A blaze that broke out Monday on Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin
(Photo: National Fire and Rescue Authority)

Six fire crews from the Afula fire station and four planes were dispatched in the area, and the residents of the kibbutz were instructed to close all windows and not leave the kibbutz from the east.Fire fighters were also called to deal with several fires near the West Bank settlement of Pedu’el.

שריפות במחלף פדואל
The fire near Pedu’el was visible from the air on Monday
(Photo: TPS)

Earlier in the day, five firefighters were operating in an open area in the Hevel Modiin industrial zone close to Ben-Gurion Airport, which led to a brief closure of Route 6 in the vicinity.
Elisha ben Kimon and Roy Rubinstein also contributed to this report