December 22, 2010, Updated September 13, 2012

In Israel’s largest forest fire, 44 people died and 9,000 acres of the Carmel forest were destroyed. Scientists and ecologists are now focusing on regeneration.

Earlier this month, despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters, a fire ravaged through the Carmel in northern Israel, destroying more than four million trees and about 9,000 acres of the Carmel forest – Israel’s most renowned. It was finally extinguished with the help of firefighters from more than 12 other countries.

Devastated Carmel forest

Photo by Shay Levy/Flash90.
With large parts of the Carmel forest laid to waste, the regeneration process has now begun.

Israel’s director of forest management, Israel Tauber refers to the fire as “a national trauma.”

Much-loved by Israelis and sacred to the three monotheistic religions, the mountain is associated with the Prophet Elijah, who is said to have resided in a cave on its slopes.

Believed to have been started by accident, after a hot and dry fall, the fire spread rapidly, quickly overwhelming Israel’s small firefighting force. Countries around the world sent extra fighters and equipment, including Israel’s neighbors Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

The most common types of trees in the forest are the Aleppo pine and the oak. The good news is that pine cones eject their winged seeds when they heat up, and can travel far on the wind before settling in the soil elsewhere. The oak regenerates by sprouting from its buds or deep roots and doesn’t need to start again from a seed.

Still, in a country like Israel, which has planted more than 240 million trees since 1901, there will be some human help in the regeneration process.

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