On the day of the international recognition of the Republic of Croatia a third of…
Two firefighter Canadairs CL-415 of the Firefighter Squadron of the 93rd Air Base of the Croatian Air Force and Air Defence with the crew of 14 on 24 November 2016 took off from the Barracks “Zemunik” towards Israel to assist the large forest fires breaking out in the northern and central regions, pursuant to the Decision of the Croatian Government of 23rd November 2016, at the proposal by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Defence Minister Damir Krstičević, upon the request from the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. The Croatian forces arrived to Israel within 24 hours from the reception of the request and joined the firefighter forces from Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Turkey, Russia, the U.S., Ukraine, Azerbaijan, France, Spain and Romania.
The Croatian teams, headed by the captains (Lt. Col. Davor Turković and Lt. Col. Goran Vlahović and Maj. Tomislav Slavica and Maj. eljko Žugaj, were stationed in the Base “Hatzor” in central Israel. On the very first day of the interventions they logged 13 flying hours and dropped cca 150 tons of water fighting the fires in the areas of Haifa and Mount of Jerusalem. They invested major efforts to combat hard conditions of water scooping in the open Mediterranean and strong winds in order to put the fires under control and curb them within the shortest time possible. On the second day – 26 November, the Croatian crews spent ten hours fighting the fires in the urban area of Nataf. Within the four-day engagement the Croatian air forces logged 35 flying hours and dropped cca 280 tons of water on the fire sites.
“The fires broke out around Haifa and Mount of Jerusalem in a sequence, in very hard conditions, which is why the swift response and the persistent performance earned us the enthousiasm and deep gratitude of the Israeli people and the government“, said the Commander of the Firefighter Squadron and of the Croatian firefighter forces in Israel, Lt.Col. Davor Turković. Lt. Col. Turković said the firefighting mission comprised a humanitarian mission and the foreign assistance capability, and promoted the international reputation and capabilities of the Croatian Armed Forces. “We have been shown respect and gratitude by the people in Israel wherever we went to, and particularly on witnessing our endurance in fighting the fires until the sunset“, stressed Lt. Col. Turković.
The respect and appreciation for the assistance were extended by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin who visited the international firefighter forces. Prime Minister Netanyahu appreciated the Croatian crews of the 93rd Air Base of the Croatian Air Force and Air Defence and the Republic of Croatia for providimg quick assistance. President Rivlin said: “On behalf of the people of Israel I am expressing the appreciation for your courage and generosity, which I shall also forward to your state authorities, for responding readily to our appeal for assistance. You have demonstrated true friendship and have become heroes in Israel too, leaving your families, homes and country to take off in your aircraft in no time to help us protect the lives of our citizens“.
The Commander of the Croatian firefighter forces Lt. Col. Davor Turković said the meeting’s atmosphere was very friendly and demonstrated Israel’s recognition of the swift and efficient response from the Croatian firefighter forces. “The Israeli statesmen underlined the vital role of the Croatian forces in firefighting, and foremostly the early arrival of the Croatian contingent to Israel, within 24 hours from the appeal. Despite the geographical distance between Croatia and Israel we were among the first forces to engage in aerial firefighting“, said Lt. Col. Turković.
The fires put under the control, the Croatian team attended the appreciation ceremony and the reception organised by the President and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel for the members of the international firefighting forces. The static display staged on the occasion featured the Croatian Canadair Cl-415, as a symbolic recognition of the important role and contribution of the Croatian air forces in fighting the large fires in Israel.
This is the second Croatian firefighter forces’ assistance to Israel, the first one being provided with one Canadair in December 2010. The Croatian air crews were presented with the Israel Prize, at a reception with the then President of Israel Shimon Peres.
Visiting the Croatian crews of the CL-415 firefighter aircraft, the Prime Minister of the State of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu expressed appreciation to the Republic of Croatia for the swift response to the appeal for assistance and timely arrival and engagement of the Croatian firefighter forces. Addressing the representatives of the international firefighter forces arriving to assist Israel, the President Reuven Rivlin said he he had visited the fire-caught area of Nataf, whose residents felt gratitude towards the firefighters for saving their lives. “On behalf of the people of Israel I am expressing the appreciation for your courage and generosity, which I shall also forward to your state authorities, for responding readily to our appeal for assistance. You have demonstrated true friendship and have become heroes in Israel too, leaving your families, homes and country to take off in your aircraft in no time to help us protect the lives of our citizens“, said President Rivlin.