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Burning passions
[Magazine Edition]
Jerusalem Post - Jerusalem
Author: Derfner, Larry
Date: Aug 2, 2002
Start Page: 16
Section: Features
Abstract (Document Summary)

On this day, the eve of Tisha Be'av, hours before two teenage suicide bombers would kill three people near Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station, man, machine and beast are at work to foil arsonists and other firebugs. It's hamsin weather - dry, 35-degree heat, accompanied by winds coming up from the desert - and two firefighting planes are on call at Ben-Gurion Airport. JNF crews are trimming the branches of pines, cypresses, and pistachio trees to keep any flames from climbing up the trunks to the branches, from where they could leap quickly from treetop to treetop. They are also thinning out the forest, cutting down trees where they were too dense. And in [Ben- Shemen], a Beduin is running a herd of about 300 JNF sheep.

[Gilad "Gidi" Mastai] says that in the fire season, which runs May through November, there's a fire in his region nearly every day. The worst in recent times came last year when Ben- Shemen lost about 200 dunams. The really big fires, he says, come in "extreme conditions, when there's a desert wind, and no humidity." Those were the conditions which created the devastating Jerusalem and Carmel forest fires - catastrophes Mastai says he doesn't even want to talk about he's so scared at the thought it could happen on his watch.

5 photos; JNF Chief Ranger 'Gidi' Mastai surveys the Ben-Shemen forest. Mastai, like many of the other rangers grew up on a moshav. Trimmed logs waiting to be taken away and milled. The JNF thins dense stands of timber to reduce the fire risk. [Eli Chen] at Shilat observation tower. Watching out for fires is tough work.

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