Golan Heights fire broke out after a lightning strike, but nature reserve personnel were quick to explain how the area will rehabilitate itself with most of the forest green again in few months.
By Ahiya Raved
A wildfire in the Golan Heights caused by lightning, which raged for 12 hours until it was extinguished Saturday afternoon, has destroyed 750 acres of forested land, and killed numerous wild animals.
The fire broke out on Friday at around 10pm, following the lightning strike.
“I arrived at the area around midnight and realized that if we didn’t stop the fire immediately it would spread rapidly and become uncontrollable,” said Eldad Eitan, head of Gamla Nature Reserve in the Golan Heights.
The firefighting aircrafts ran into the problem of dodging flocks of eagles and kites in order to avoid a deadly crash, said Eitan, who lives in the nearby Kanaf community.
“We worked all night to confine the fire and create suppression fire, so that in the morning, when the direction of the wind changed, the fire would not have sufficient material to burn and spread. If we had not worked all night, this fire would have destroyed 7,413 acres and not 750,” Eitan added.
The strenuous work paid off and in the morning, when the firefighting aircrafts resumed their activity, the fire was only burning in the valleys, which they could not reach.
The Gamla Nature Reserve has the largest eagle colony in Israel. According Eitan, the main problem was keeping the busy airways safe.
“We weren’t afraid of hitting the eagles, because they usually fly away in these types of situations. Also the nesting season was over so there was no worry about that.
“The problem was the crowdedness of the airways, which raised the chances of a collision between an aircraft and an eagle, so we had an observer telling the pilots the exact locations of the birds. Many reptiles were killed in the fire, but the eagle population was unhurt.”
According to Eitan, the fire mainly destroyed areas of natural forest, which rehabilitates itself, but also several dozen oak and eucalyptus trees were burnt.
“Only recently we had planted 60 oak trees as part of rehabilitating the area following a huge fire that took place here in 2010. But winter is coming soon, so the rest of the area will be green again in four months,” Eitan said.
The lightning caused two other fires on the Golan. The commander of the firefighting units in the region, Yair Elkayam, said lightning that had struck near Kanaf caused a relatively small fire, and an additional strike caused a fire near a military base in the area of Moshav Yonatan, where there were concerns that the fire would spread to the base.
“The three fires erupted at about the same time, around 10pm. The fire in Gamla was the toughest of the three; it was concentrated in the area of the Daliyot Stream, but did not spread to Gamla stream. It was extinguished after nearly 12 hours,” said Elkayam.
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4579597,00.html