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Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Israel's recent disastrous fire on the northern Carmel mountain range has resulted in a surge of volunteers for the Fire Scouts, a branch in Israel's Scouting Movement. The Fire Scouts, a previously little known scouting group, has actually been in existence since 1959. Its 350 enthusiastic members, whose ages range between 15 and 18, are often in action in real fire fighting operations, as in the December 2 -5 fire in which one of the group's members, 16 year old Elad Rivan, lost his life.
The "firebug" desire to help augment the country's often strained firefighting resources by these young people often results in some of them becoming professional fire fighters upon completing military service. Such is a case of 21 year old Ben Geller who is now a full time fire fighter after finishing his army service. "I knew that at the age of 15 I had to volunteer somewhere. I asked myself, 'What am I going to do? Help the elderly? Volunteer in the Scouts? In Magen David Adom?' And then, one day, I don't know if it was because of some movie or an Internet site, I caught the firefighting bug," Ben was quoted when interviewed by Haaretz newspaper.
The services of these brave and enthusiastic youths are very much appreciated by the branches of the fire brigades with whom they frequently work. Avi Cohen, who heads the Haifa branch of Fire Scouts in which Elad Rivan was a member, says that he now runs 20 firefighting schools which fill up very quickly with students. He says that interest in taking the course has "caught on like a wild fire" since the onset of the Carmel fire disaster. Cohen is very proud of his kids and says "the moment they put on the uniform [of a fire scout] they change from rowdy to very disciplined and dedicated volunteers."
Regarding Elad Rivan, Cohen said the youth didn't register at any fire station. He simply put on his uniform and jumped on the first fire truck he saw heading in the direction of the fire on the Carmel. In fact, the regular crew didn't even know who Rivan was, or that he was so young. They accepted him simply as a fellow firefighter.
"We now have made some changes in which more control is made on the Scouts when they volunteer to fight a real fire" Cohen says. These changes involve each fire scout having to first report to his unit before being assigned to be with a fire brigade.
A professional firefighter for over 30 years Cohen says regarding the ferocity of the Carmel wildfire:
"The fire was very hard for us. I have been with the firefighters for more than 30 years, and I never had a fire like this. And not only me; no firefighter in this country has ever seen anything like it. Only in the movies - only in Hollywood."
Information on the Fire Scouts can be found by visiting the Fire Scouts forum on the Israel Firefighters website: www.102.co.il
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