More than 600 Hundred United Hatzalah volunteer EMS personnel assisted firefighters in evacuating residents in the Romema and Sapir neighborhoods of Haifa during a series of fires that blazed in those areas on Thursday morning. Residents who were still in their neighborhoods were evacuated by the firefighters, police and United Hatzalah volunteers.
Multiple fires burned in and around the wooded Haifa neighborhoods propelled by strong winds in the area. Schools and kindergartens were among the first buildings to be evacuated.
Moshe Adler, Chapter head of United Hatzalah for Haifa said: “Our volunteers left their jobs and families and are joined the firefighters, police officers, and other rescue workers to help evacuate and rescue residents, children, and the elderly in the affected areas. It is important that our volunteers joined the effort and were present in order to provide first aid to any resident or firefighter that required assistance during the evacuation. Tens of people have been treated for varying degrees of smoke inhalation.”
Doron Shafir, a paramedic with United Hatzalah who helped with the evacuation spoke about the assistance that the EMS personnel were providing the fire department and police during the blaze. “We are working with emergency rescue forces to evacuate the residents in the area. We are going into the high-rises and evacuating the elderly from the area in our own personal vehicles to safe areas. What is unique about this situation is that we live on these streets as well. These are our neighborhoods and our neighbors.”
Shafir added “In one instance United Hatzalah ambucycles had to open up a lane of traffic for an individual who needed to be evacuated as he was suffering from significant smoke inhalation, and we were able to transport him to Carmel Medical Center in moderate condition.”
Volunteers from the organization are assisting rescue teams at the location of other fires around the country including Nataf and Talmon. The organization has instructed its volunteers, across the country, to be on a state of alert in order to provide an extra level of response to any emergency, whether it is fire related or a medical emergency, as it is expected that there will be ambulance evacuation delays due to the heavy traffic and extra workload in affected areas.
Additionally, the organization has set up logistics and relief centers for firefighters and rescue workers in multiple locations around the country that have been hard hit by fires in the past three days, including Haifa.
The centers provide a respite for firefighters to recoup and receive hot drinks and food. The Director of Operations for United Hatzalah, David Krispel said “We are happy to help the firefighters and rescue workers who are giving every ounce of energy they have to help protect the residents in the affected areas. At United Hatzalah we have enlisted to help not only with providing medical assistance in the event that it is needed but also in providing humanitarian assistance to the firefighters who are working day-and-night to combat the fire and encourage them in any way we can.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett headed to Haifa to assess the situation and rescue efforts. He was assisted by a United Hatzalah ambucycle driver to get a clear picture of the area affected by the fire.