KKL-JNF’s firefighters: On the front line of fire

Monday, June 07, 2021 11:00 AM

During Operation Guardian of the Walls, about 300 KKL-JNF firefighters worked around the clock battling fires caused by rockets and incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip. In times of war and also when fighting seasonal forest fires, it is their job to protect and restore Israel's green spaces for the benefit of people and the environment.

The KKL-JNF firefighting crews are working around the clock to stop the fire’s spread, contain it, and extinguish it. (Photo: Moran Mayan, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

The sudden and intense barrage of rockets on Israel over the last few weeks was just another event in which KKL-JNF firefighting teams were on the front line, working around the clock to save precious green forests and open spaces. During Operation Guardian of the Walls, KKL-JNF firefighters battled wildfires in the northwestern Negev ignited by rockets and incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of May 2021, more than 125 fires burned dozens of hectares of KKL-JNF forest land, including Be'eri, Kissufim, HaBesor, Hevel Eshkol, Nahal Assaf, and Tel Gama. KKL-JNF's western Negev fire lookout towers played an important role in locating the incendiary devices once they landed, thereby helping firefighters contain and prevent the fires' spread.
House in southern Israel damaged during "Gurdian of the Walls" operation. (Photo: Edi Israel, Flash90)
At the end of the shelling, it will be possible to start planning the actions required to rehabilitate the forests. During the ten days of the war, firefighters could not enter the area at all. Past experience shows that intense bombardment causes a large amount of fires, although the extent of the damage is still unknown. Once the cease-fire comes into effect, KKL-JNF will begin to assess the damage and advance the forest restoration plan.

"We will have to do extensive forest restoration work," explained KKL-JNF Western Negev Regional Director Danny Ben-David. "The damage done to the forests will be with us for many years, not to mention the ecological damage. Our professionals will comb the area, assess the damage and decide how to carry out the restoration operations. In some places we allow the forest to recover on its own, and in other we will replant."
Forest fire at a settlement (Moshav) near Jerusalem. (Photo: Flash90, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

Calm has returned to our southern borders, but the seasonal forest fires will remain with us till the end of summer. KKL-JNF firefighters, who are responsible for an area of over 400,000 acres, are preparing for Israel’s forest fire season, in which 600 fires ravage 2,000 acres, including 50,000 trees, a year. These fires cause severe damage to the ecosystem, to agriculture, and to property. Every time one of KKL-JNF’s 14 watchtower spots a fire and KKL-JNF firefighters come to the rescue, more forests and open spaces, which play a key role in preserving biodiversity, mitigating climate change and combatting desertification, are saved. As Ben-David noted, "we put out fires not only in the forests, but also in the nature reserves, open areas and agricultural fields."

Israel’s green spaces serve as recreational sites for millions of visitors a year and are also important natural habitats for many species of wildlife and plants. After a fire, KKL-JNF begins the painstaking work of restoring the forests and green spaces. It can take several decades to rehabilitate a burnt forest.
Personal safety gear is vital in making a difficult job safer. (Photo: Eyal Eliyahu, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

KKL-JNF has 300 dedicated firefighters who risk their lives every time they step up to the plate. To do their job safely and effectively, and improve their chances of success, they need advanced equipment such as UAV’s, McLeods, and protective gear such as anti-smoke masks, flame retardant clothing, protective goggles, headlamps and more.
In addition, KKL-JNF’s present fleet of 24 trucks, other than a that were purchased in recent years, is outdated and not suited to the challenges of fighting fire in Israel, which includes navigating in rough terrain, ascending sleep slopes and putting out huge walls of fire.
All firetrucks were purchased thanks to the generous donation of our KKL-JNF friends worldwide. (Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

There are seven fire trucks in the southern region, three of which are positioned in the western Negev. They were all purchased with the support of KKL-JNF friends worldwide. Ben-David points out: "When I am in the field and fighting fires, I occasionally notice the donation signs on the firefighting trucks. It reminds me that we are not alone in this war, and it is heartwarming to know that we have support."

Be a part of this effort by supporting and purchasing equipment for our KKL-JNF forest fighting teams. They have a world of green to protect and save!