December 6, 2010 / 3:24 AM / 8 years ago

Israel fire quelled, senior policewoman dies of burns

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s most senior policewoman died Monday of severe injuries suffered in a huge forest fire, raising the death toll in the blaze to 42.

Israeli soldiers look as a plane dumps water over a forest fire on Mount Carmel near the northern city of Haifa December 5, 2010. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Police said the fires that consumed more than 12,000 acres of woodlands, millions of trees and more than 100 homes, were extinguished Monday, five days after taking hold of the Carmel ridge outside the port city of Haifa.

Efforts to beat down the inferno were helped by overnight rains, and emergency equipment rushed to Israel from across Europe, the United States, Asia, Egypt and Jordan.

Ahuva Tomer, 53, the first woman commander named to the Haifa police force, sustained severe burns in the blaze after being trapped inside her vehicle. She died of the injuries and was buried with full police honors Monday.

She had become stuck near a bus filled with prison guard cadets headed to evacuate a jail, most of whom also perished in the fire.

Israeli television stations showed footage of Tomer driving into the forest to aid relief efforts as doctors at a Haifa hospital struggled to save her life.

“It looks like an unnecessary, damaging fire,” she tells a reporter in the clip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named a task force to see to swift compensation for dozens of families whose homes were razed in what he has called Israel’s worst blaze.

Netanyahu also said his office oversee a campaign to bolster the nation’s firefighting force.

The disaster has led to public calls for the resignation of Interior Minister Eli Yishai, an ally in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, over a shortage of firefighting equipment that forced Israel to seek help elsewhere.

Israeli media assessed the cost of the fire’s damage at around 2 billion shekels ($550 million).

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said three teenagers arrested in the past few days on suspicion of setting the blaze through negligence. Two, accused of failing to properly put out a camp fire were under house arrest, he said.

A third, a boy of 14, was arrested Monday on suspicion of tossing glowing coals from a hookah pipe he had been smoking into the forest, which may have ignited the flames, Rosenfeld said.

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem)

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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