The Fire Age
In their usual daily routine, they are busy developing and caring for forests and recreation sites. As part of their training, they learn about firefighting in case a fire breaks out in a forest due to a heat wave or because of visitors’ negligence. Nothing, however, prepared the KKL-JNF staff in the Western Negev region for the kite terror from Gaza. Over the past two months, they’ve become firemen around the clock for all intents and purposes, running from fire to fire, and the end is nowhere in sight.
Meital R. Fishman, in cooperation with KKL-JNFKite terror
continues to strike the fields of the communities bordering on the Gaza Strip with full force, causing serious damage to farmers
. However, over the past few days, the extent of the damage done to the Negev
forests has also surfaced. These forests have been severely harmed over the past two months, during which over 50 acres of green lungs have gone up in flames.
The burning kites
(and helium balloons) arrive from Gaza all hours of the day, mainly during the morning and afternoon, when the wind changes direction and blows from the west in the direction of the Gaza border communities
, causing hundreds of acres of planted forests to go up in flames. These forests are not only a green lung for local residents, but also a sort of security fence between the border communities and the Gaza Strip.
“Without detracting from the damage done to the farmers, in eight months from now their burnt fields will be green again as if nothing happened,” says Itzik Lugasi. “When my forest is burned down, it’s not only painful to me personally – after all, these are trees that I planted 25 years ago – but there’s also the knowledge that it will take the forest a long time to get back to what it was. It’s not a field that you irrigate and it grows after a few months. You need to wait from 20 to 25 years for a tree to grow. And it’s not just about the trees – one’s heart breaks for all the animals that died, the turtles, the foxes, the porcupines, the deer, the birds and their nests – everything went up in flames.”
Until two months ago, before this wave of kite terror began, Lugasi (52) worked in KKL-JNF as a recreation site coordinator in the Western Negev and the Eshkol Bloc, and was also responsible for security afforestation
in the Gaza Strip border region. As a result of the kite terror, his pleasant and calm daily routine was turned into intense and exhausting firefighting work around the clock. Lugasi, like many other KKL-JNF employees, had been trained how to function as a firefighter for all intents and purposes in times of emergency. He went for extensive training and preparation and was equipped with a specialized fire truck that allows him to be the first person on the scene in the area where a terror kite lands
. “Being a firefighter
is not my job, but this is what I have to do because this is my life. For me, when a forest is burned down, it’s as if a person’s home was set on fire,” he says.
Lugasi patrols the area everyday with the small firefighting vehicle that’s attached to his truck, which holds 500 liters of water
. “Over the past two months I’m in the field with the firefighting vehicle nonstop. It’s much more difficult for a regular fire department fire truck to enter an afforested area. I’m available with my little fire truck, which does excellent work, and can successfully provide a first response for almost any sort of fire that breaks out in the region,” he says proudly. “As part of my job, I try as much as possible to protect the recreation sites from fires in order to make it possible for local residents and visitors to come back to this region as soon as the kite terror stops
. Once we started to feel that this was serious business and not something that would just blow over, my team and I immediately began work at the recreation sites doing things like taking out dry weeds and pruning in order to prevent arson and fires as much as possible.”