Letter from the Commander of the Air Force on the Conclusion of the Firefighting Mission in the Carmel

Dear Current and Reserve Members of the Air Force,

Last Thursday, Israel found herself coping with the most severe forest fire in our history. The war of flames for the sake of saving lives, property, and nature turned into a national effort.

Some of our unique efforts were activated, for the first time in Israel’s history, in an international air fire fighting operation. The mission to manage this operation was given to the Israeli Air Force.

The operation was unprecedented in its scope and its complexity. 30 different types of aircraft (planes and helicopters) from 11 different countries acted with our friends from the aerial spraying companies “Chimnir” and “Telem”. Over three days, 681 firefighting sorties were carried out in which more than 2,200 flights dropped water on different parts of the fire.

The navigating efforts by the people of the Cooperation Unit conducting the joint activities deserve much praise along with firefighting forces and the general officials of fire departments, who were aided by the exact and updated pictures received by the observation planes and meteorological centers.

The members of the Control System managed the wide, varied, and crowded airspace professionally. The Control Post assembled the coordination and activities of the aircraft and different IAF bases supported the success of the missions executed. Crews of the IAF joined in flights while members of the Technical, Administration, and Aviation supported everything.

Special appreciation is given to the 252 air and ground crews of the international aid forces, who went over and above to help Israel and showed true friendship in our time of tragedy.

Alongside the aerial efforts were efforts on the ground the entire time. Dozens of firefighters from the air force acted with devotion and decisiveness, shoulder to shoulder with the firefighters in your fights against the fire, from the first moment until the fire was put out.

43 members of the Israel Prison Service, Israel Police, and firefighters were tragically killed in the fire, including the young Elad Riben that acted as a volunteer firefighter. Our hearts are with the families of the deceased. We also wish a fast recovery to all of those injured during the operation.

Members of the IAF,

The Israeli Air Force was recruited to a unique national mission and rose to the occasion. The aerial firefighting effort was a decisive factor and was a full partner in the struggle on the ground. You demonstrated an exemplary level of professionalism, dedication without end, and abilities beyond what was expected.

The spirit and the devotion of the IAF gives us much pride, and I am deeply appreciative to each and every one of you for your work.

Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan

Commander of the IAF