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Climate change wildfires may cause “collapse” of Israeli firefighting system

Jerusalem24 – Haaretz – Israeli firefighting services are unequipped to deal with an expected increase in massive wildfires caused by climate change, according to an investigation by Israeli daily Haaretz.

The Israel Fire and Rescue Services warn of an increase in wildfires close to populated areas, which constitute “immediate danger to life and property.”

An increase in the overall frequency and intensity of the fires may cause the collapse of the firefighting system, according to a special climate crisis committee set up by the Israel Fire and Rescue Services.

The committee further states that “reliance on international assistance may prove to be impractical” as the entire Mediterranean basin is expecting (or already experiencing) a significant increase in wildfires.

“Each day that passes without overall preparation, both in changing the allocation scenarios and through a change in mindset and a matching operational response, leads us to the brink of disaster.”

Sources at the firefighting service told Haaretz that they are short hundreds of millions of shekels in human resources and equipment needed to effectively deal with the expected fires.

The special climate crisis committee was set up three months ago to examine the readiness of the firefighting service for developing challenges, with an emphasis on the climate crisis. The committee was headed by Nissim Twito, who was Jerusalem district chief during the huge fire that took place there in 2021.

Twito told Haaretz, “We are on borrowed time and the question is not will it come, but when.”

Heating up at “double the global average”

Israel Meteorological Service director Nir Stav admitted to Haaretz in a separate investigation that the climate in the region is heating up at double the global average, and could see heatwaves lasting seven to 10 days and peaking at 50 degrees Celsius.

The Israel Meteorological Service predicts that Jerusalem will see temperatures exceeding 36 degrees and reaching 43 to 44 degrees by 2050.

In the Jerusalem area, there are currently between two and four heatwaves a year, typically lasting about four days with temperatures over 32 degrees (90 F.). It is projected that in 2050, there will be six to seven such hot spells per year in the area lasting about six days, with temperatures exceeding 34 degrees and 39 degrees at their hottest.

Source: Haaretz, ‘Climate Crisis Will Lead to Increase in Unstoppable Massive Wildfires in Israel’

The region is currently experiencing a heatwave with highs of up to 40 degrees in certain areas of historic Palestine.

In August 2021, a huge wildfire in the vicinity of Jerusalem forced the evacuation of a number of nearby towns when firefighting services struggled to contain the blaze.

Wildfires in November 2021 forced 60,000 residents to evacuate the coastal city of Haifa.

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