Groups of people were in the forest for a day's outing. HaAretz tells a sad story of a stable with lots of horses being in the path of the fire. The police seemed unaware of the might of a forest fire and didn't give the evacuation notice for that area, not knowing which way the fire could progress. This is an event that Israelis are not accustomed to dealing with. Planting trees in Israel is a major yearly event with a holiday commemorating the planting.
I remember driving into the forest just outside of Safed, a city more northern than Haifa. The trees were smaller in stature and height than our Oregon trees, but were a welcome sight, nevertheless.6:31pm: 12/2/10 Update: "Israel has been in the grip of a severe drought. Rains which normally come in November after the hot summer months failed to materialize this year. Israeli news outlets reported that the fire, aided by strong winds, has already burned at least 7,000 dunams (about 1,730 acres) of natural forest. The University of Haifa was evacuated as a precaution as were residents of western neighborhoods, two prisons and a psychiatric hospital and at least two nearby villages. " Israel Project.
9:15am 12/3/10 Arson is suspected, 2 arrested. 7,500 acres burnt, 8 foreign planes, 3 helicopters, 3 firetrucks and 150 foreign firefighters have arrived and are being used. 17,000 evacuated.
9:51am The IDF sent soldiers and equipment, including helicopters, bulldozers, medics and army units to combat the blaze. More help came from Greece, Bulgaria which sent 100 firefighters, Spain, Azerbaijan, Romania Russia, Cyprus, France and Britain. The United States also offered aid. Israel is better known for sending its own rescue teams and medical personnel to other countries to help in their disaster-relief efforts. The Israel Project.
3:09pm Firefighting authorities are putting their hopes on a Russian aircraft that landed in Israel on Friday evening and will go into action on Saturday. The plane is capable of holding up to 42,000 liters of water. The United States is sending a three-person Forest Service team experienced in aerial firefighting to Israel NPR
Brigadier General Ahmad Ar-Riziq told Ma'an that Palestinian firefighters were able to help control the fire which has spread to Palestinian villages At-Tayba and Barta'a west of Jenin. maannews.net
12/7/10: Now that the fire is out, we find that 24 countries sent aid to Israel. Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Spain, Switzerland, USA, UK, Croatia, France, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Palestinians, and others helped save the country. 200 international firefighters were there for Israel. 10 of them were from the USA. 92 of the firefighters were from Bulgaria. This fire caused 42 deaths and 5 million trees to be destroyed. THANK YOU ALL SO VERY VERY MUCH.
Reference: Victor Sharpe
Arutz Sheva: Fire or Massacre? Israeli media downplays arson suspicion by Gil Ronen