Incendiary balloons and kites launched from the Gaza Strip have destroyed some 8,150 acres of Israeli land, mostly in the Gaza periphery region, in the past 10 months. To better meet this challenge, 16 Israelis have decided to take part in a volunteer firefighting course.
Once they complete their training in two weeks’ time, the volunteers will officially become part of Kibbutz Or Haner’s firefighting force and will be allotted their own fire truck.
According to Eyal Hajbi, the chief security officer for the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, the course is one way the region is preparing for the next wave of arson attacks this summer.
“We are preparing in full force for the summer of 2019 because Hamas never said it would stop launching [incendiary] balloons and kites. In recent weeks, explosive balloons were sent toward Israel. The incendiary balloons stopped for a time because of the weather. We expect them to renew the launches when it gets warmer out.”
Volunteer units have been opened in Kibbutz Nahal Oz and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, and “we’re interested in opening a volunteer unit in Kibbutz Bror Hayil, among others,” said Hajbi.
“There’s a lot more that needs to be done. The work is being carried out thanks to extraordinary cooperation between the council, the communities and the Israel Fire and Rescue Services. The volunteer unit from Or Haner is another brick in the wall of defense against the fires,” he added.
Lucy Miransky, one of two women taking part in the course, said that on Friday, “we did a live exercise that involved cutting a car open, and we simulated a fire. Despite all the difficulty involved, I had a great time. The tools weigh a ton, and we are only two women, but we do everything the men do.
“We’ve had a lot of fires on the kibbutz and a few times firefighting planes were called in. Thank God, we can now protect ourselves more quickly instead of waiting for the firefighters to be sent in. We can deal with the fires or at least stabilize the situation until backup arrives.”
She added that “we don’t expect things to improve. They launch incendiary balloons. Now, in the winter, they launch explosive balloons, and there’s no prognosis this will end.”
Taking part in the course makes Miransky “feel like I am defending my home. It’s encouraging knowing I can and know how to respond.”