After the forest fires

December 14, 2016 by Michael Kuttner
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At the invitation of the Jewish National Fund J-Wire’s correspondent Michael Kuttner participated in a tour of the Jerusalem hills recently devastated by a series of fires.

Chanoch Zoref, JNF Forest Supervisor for Jerusalem area explaining the
extent of the fire devastation

Chanoch Zoref, KKL forest supervisor for the region accompanied a group of media representatives around the affected areas and explained the rehabilitation efforts now being undertaken. He explained that 13,000 dunams of forest were burnt in the Judean hills. The unusually strong easterly winds which had blown for a week ensured that the flames spread at amazing speed up the valleys and threatened to engulf several communities in its path. Fire fighters from many regional brigades plus fire fighting planes coordinated to prevent potential disasters to villages and infrastructure.

The tour was designed to show the extent of the devastation and how the areas affected could be rehabilitated and restored. This is obviously going to be a long process with basically nothing being done in the first year in order to give nature time to rehabilitate on its own. Already after the first rains of the winter season green shoots can be seen appearing in places where low lying bushes had been completely destroyed.

The building of fire breaks or fuel breaks as Chanoch described them is a priority. These breaks will create spaces by inhabited areas so that any future conflagrations can be more easily contained. An interesting fact is that in Israel all fires are caused by manmade events as opposed to other countries such as Australia where lightening strikes often start major bush fires.

The Jewish National Fund is using all its resources to ensure that the destroyed forests are rehabilitated in the best possible manner taking into account nature’s ability to regenerate self seed and recover naturally. Where necessary dead vegetation will be pruned and in due course new planting will take place.

The JNF has a detailed plan to cope with this challenging situation.

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