JERUSALEM (JTA) — Fire preparedness is the responsibility of the Interior Ministry, and the Fire and Rescue Services are the weak link in Israel’s emergency readiness, a report said.
The report issued Wednesday by Israel’s State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss called on the government to "immediately stop the foot-dragging regarding the fire services, and the handing-off of responsibility from one minister to another. The ministers who have any association with the issue – starting with the Finance Minister and including the Defense Minister who is responsible for the National Emergency Authority – must join together to immediately carry out the government’s decision to establish a national fire and rescue authority and to organize the fire services in a way that suits its purpose – something that should have already been done.”
The report was part of a larger report about the failures in home front readiness in light of the Second Lebanon War, but was released on Wednesday in the wake of the Carmel Forest fire, extinguished on Dec. 5, which led to the death of 42 people, the evacuation of more than 15,000 people, and the burning of more than 12,000 acres of land.
The report, using information from 2007 to 2009, noted that Interior Minister Eli Yishai had warned the government regarding the dire state of the fire and rescue services, something Yishai has been saying since fingers began pointing at him even before the fire had been completely put out.
A report in 2007 following the Second Lebanon War found numerous deficiencies in the fire service’s readiness for emergencies – including the fact that firefighters could be called up for regular military reserve duty during a time of war, depleting the fire service’s already thin manpower.
In May 2008, the government voted to establish a national fire and rescue authority, but as of the release of the report Wednesday it had not been implemented.