'Azzun 'Atma, Wed 23.6.10, Afternoon
In response to a call from Tami Cohen about a fire on Tuesday in the olive groves of Azzun, we went to see what we could report on it. But the fire had been in the area of Azzun Atmeh, so we went first to Huwarra.
16:30 Azzun Atma
We were met here at the gate into Azzun Atma by M. He took us to a house, belonging to the Kadush family, among the houses on the opposite side of the road from the gate. We went up to the roof to see the area of the fire. We looked out at the hills covered with olive groves and could see a long swath, several kilometers in length, of burnt trees. Far to the west we could see smoke still rising over a far hill. M. said that the smoke was coming from the last vestige of the fire that was still burning, but low. Since it was in a garbage dump and not accessable by vehicle, no one was bothering to put it out.
No one knows how the fire started; around 7:00 am it could be seen. M. says that people didn't react soon enough, but the area of the fire was quite far from the village. And here the story becomes complicated. The area of the fire, and the houses where we were standing are very close to Azzun Atmeh, but the land belongs to the farmers of Zawiya, which we could see quite far from the house in the east.
When farmers from Zawiya realized that the groves were on fire they came with the only fire-fighting equipment that they have - poles with a rubber paddle on the end - in order to try and beat down the fire. But they were met by soldiers at the gate to their lands and told that they coild not go to the area at that hour. No amount of expanations to the soldiers (who could also see the fire) convinced them to allow the villagers access to the groves in order to try and contain the fire. Finally fire-trucks and men from the PA came to put out the fire but as there are no access roads into the groves the fire-trucks were useful only near the main roads.
By 14:00 the fire had either burnt itself out or been put out where the fire-fighters could reach it.
The story is complicated by the fact that the people living in the group of houses across the road from the gate to Azzun Atmeh are really part of the village of Zawiya. But their ID cards have their address as Azzun Atmeh.
Shouldn't the soldiers have clear guidelines for how to react in an emergency, such as a fire???