Israel's top policewoman dies from fire burns

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Pastor Dale Morgan

Dec 6, 2010, 4:47:36 AM12/6/10
Perilous Times

Israel's top policewoman dies from fire burns

The Associated Press
Monday, December 6, 2010; 4:41 AM

JERUSALEM -- Israel's top policewoman, who had clung to life for four days after her patrol car was trapped in a burning Israel forest, died Monday of her wounds.

Deputy Commander Ahuva Tomer, head of the police department in Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, had been driving behind a bus of prison guards rushing to evacuate a prison Thursday when both vehicles were engulfed in flames.

Her death raised to 42 the number of people who died in the wildfire that consumed a 20-square-mile (50-square-kilometer) area in the Carmel forest, a popular nature spot on Haifa's outskirts. It is the worst fire in Israel's history.

The 52-year-old policewoman became a symbol of the fire's victims after a TV reporter interviewed her just minutes before she set out on what became her last mission. She spoke of the pain of seeing the forest burn and nodding ruefully, added, "It looks like it will last a long time."

The fire that killed the Soviet-born Tomer has generated much soul-searching in Israel about the state of the country's leadership, because firefighters had long warned that the neglected state of their operation was a recipe for disaster.

Hours after the blaze broke out Thursday, firefighters ran out of flame-retardant chemicals. They also did not have a single firefighting plane in their possession.

Israel was forced to appeal to other countries to send planes and material to put out the raging blaze, which on Monday had been reduced to one isolated point, according to police.

Israel's vulnerability prompted critics to ask whether the nation's leaders could cope with far more serious challenges, like rocket attacks from Iranian-backed militants or a nuclear-armed Iran.

On the other hand, the fire has also generated much pride in the bravery and leadership of those like Tomer and a 16-year-old volunteer firefighter who died trying to rescue those aboard the bus.

Two teenage brothers are being held on suspicion that they inadvertently set the fire. Two other minors were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the fire and were being questioned Monday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Most of the 17,000 people evacuated during the fire have returned to their homes.

Although the blaze was small by international standards, it was considered a calamity in Israel, where only 7 percent of the land is wooded.
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