The law followed a government decision from January 2011, which, in light of the Mt. Carmel forest fire, called for the establishment of a National Fire Authority under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Security.
Main Points of the Law
The law changes the structure of the fire service from a municipality-based, divided force, into a single, unified, national force. The law also broadens the authority of the Fire Commissioner, who will now command over the force, determine the number and location of fire stations, and decide on the size of the force. As a result of the move to the Ministry of Public Security, all firefighters will now become government employees. In addition, the jurisdiction over hazardous materials will be transferred from the Environmental Protection Ministry to the Fire Commission. According to the government decision, the law must be implemented by February 1, 2013.
In light of the new units being developed to meet the needs of the National Fire Authority, 300 new firefighters have been enlisted and an additional 30 positions in the fire commission were approved, including a deputy commissioner, head of operations and head of investigations. In addition, 22 units for special rescue missions involving heights and water have been established. Finally, an aerial firefighting unit was established under the command of the Air Force, and consists of eight aircraft, each with a capacity of 3,000 liters of water or foam.
Aside for adding personnel, the Fire Service has also made significant advancements in the field of technology. First, a national, state-of-the-art control center was constructed at the fire commission headquarters. In addition, the fire and rescue academy was renovated, including new dormitories, new lecture halls, a workout room, and new training equipment. Additionally, plans are in the works for designing a multi-purpose training facility which will include fire and smoke simulations. So far, eight new fire stations have been opened in locations across the country, and plans are in the way for an additional 14. Ninety new fire trucks have been supplied, and thousands of protective suits are being distributed to fire stations.
In addition, the “Shalhevet” command and control system, which manages the Fire and Rescue Service's operations, is being installed in all fire stations throughout the country, as well as the in the aerial firefighting unit and in the Israel Prison Service. The system will later be installed in the Home-Front Command, JNF forest services, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Furthermore, a communications network is being planned that will connect the Fire Service headquarters to the local stations through computers. Lastly, the development of the “Matash” fire prediction system has been completed, and has been operational since January 2012 in cities with large forest areas.
In order to bring the firefighters up to speed and advance their capabilities, many training exercises have been conducted, including large-scale exercises with multiple fire stations and additional emergency agencies; exercises simulating forest fires and earthquakes in cooperation with Israel Police helicopters; and other joint training sessions with the Home Front Command, JNF, the Nature and Parks Authority, Magen David Adom, and the National Emergency Authority.