“We’re preparing for the large number of campers and also because of the extreme weather”
In the past weekend, the unit extinguished three fires in various areas around the country
Since the Aerial Firefighting Unit of the IAF was established, it has extinguished 164 fires, logged over 530 flight hours and 1250 takeoffs. In keeping with the traditional Jewish holiday Lag BaOmer, we’ve summarized the unit’s 2012 activities
Shir Golan | Photography: Carmel Horowitz
On December 2010, wild fire began eating away the acres of land on Mount Carmel. 44 people lost their lives, 1700 people were evacuated from their homes and 25000 acres were destroyed. Greece, Russia, France, Britain and other countries assisted by sending firefighting aircraft that operated for over three days, but the Israeli government made the final decision to establish its own Firefighting unit.
Throughout May 2011, the Aerial Firefighting Unit became operational. “The unit will drastically improve Israel’s firefighting formation, and our ability to deal with similar scenarios in the future”, says Head of the IAF Headquarters, who has since been appointed as Head of the Planning Department, Major General Nimrod Shefer. “I hope that the airplanes will not have to face operational missions and only deal with instructional and training sessions”.
Up until now, this hope hasn’t come through, and the Firefighting unit of the IAF has been operating restlessly. In 2010, the unit conducted 70 takeoffs and dropped over five gallons of water over eight fires. During this passed weekened, three airplanes were rushed to put out three dangerous fires across the country: The airplanes arrived at “Horshim” forest, next to Oranit, over in Rishon Le Tzion and around Beit Kama. The unit’s airplanes had to operate on three different fronts. “It was a very intense afternoon”, described the field officer of the unit, Captain Oren. “It seems as if the fires occurred because of the hot Israeli weather, but we don’t have the specifics. A lot of damage was done to agricultural fields”.
Nowadays, the unit is preparing for the upcoming summer season, which is known as the “Firefighting Season”. Alongside ground firefighting and rescue forces, the unit is training for various scenarios they may face around the country. “We have no doubt that the training we’re conducting will improve the unit’s abilities and functions during operational missions”, concluded Commander of the Unit, Lieutenant Colonel Rami.
Preparing for Lag BaOmer
Today, the unit is preparing for traditional Lag BaOmer bonfire celebrations around the country. “We are preparing for the large amounts of visitors and for the problematic and extreme weather”, explains Deputy Commander of the Unit, Major Nissim. “We have prepared loaded aircrafts in the north and south of the country. This way we can send out airplanes faster, and the reaction time will be shorter”.
Meanwhile, the Fire Fighting unit reminds the public to be careful of fire, manage bonfires in a safe manner and make sure they it is put out entirely when they are done. The IAF wishes you a happy Lag BaOmer!