Dramatic Rescue from Fires

On Sunday 15th August, wildfires spread through the wooded hills about 6 miles west of Jerusalem and sent huge palls of smoke billowing over the city.

The fire and rescue commissioner said as many as twelve firefighting planes were deployed along with around 70 fire crews – efforts that led to Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service reporting that there were no serious injuries.

But the fires were very dangerous, leading to the evacuation of more than 10,000 people from six towns west of the city, and giving great concern about the staff and patients in the Eitanim psychiatric hospital.

The woodland location of the hospital, in the hills outside Jerusalem, means that it is normally a serene retreat from the bustle of activity in the outside world.

But on Sunday, as 150 patients and staff watched the fire approach up the hill, it seemed more like a trap. Unless rescuers somehow found a way through the flames outside, it seemed they would soon all be dead.

Security camera footage posted on Twitter shows the scale of the fire and its speed of approach.

Tweet of security camera footage

Some members of staff called loved ones to say goodbye, while others did what they could to keep the flames away and maintain calm among the patients.

But rescuers did make their way through the flames and smoke. Four police officers risked their lives to reach the hilltop location and managed to get the group to safety – something for which they will get medals of honour from Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, according to a Hebrew media report on Thursday.