Volunteer Firefighter Battles The Most Destructive Israeli Fires

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As most Boys Town Jerusalem students now look forward to the festive, flickering Chanukah menorah flames, 11th grader Daniel Ben Hemo looks back at the horrific flames that recently raged across Israel—and to miracles that he witnessed.

During the wave of devastating fires, 16-year-old Daniel became one of the two youngest firefighters to battle the massive blazes within the Jerusalem Hills. His first steps into the world of volunteering for the Israeli Fire Department came two years ago via BTJ’s community service program.

“As the fires intensified throughout Israel, I was in school when I got the emergency call-up,” the tall, dark-haired student recalled. “I rushed to the station to help prepare the firefighting vehicles for action, day and night.” Meanwhile the deadly combination of fierce winds and dry weather fueled the flames, ruthlessly spreading the fires. By Thursday, when terrorist acts of arson ravaged the country as well, Daniel became one of only two teenage volunteers selected to join the firefighting team “on the scene” in the Jerusalem Hills.

“I’ve fought serious blazes over the past year, but nothing like these fires,” he admitted. “Imagine facing 65-foot flames, 60 mph winds, and thick black smoke choking the air. Yet we fought as a team to extinguish one blaze after another.” For four days, Daniel worked round the clock, sleeping only two hours a night.

“I did my best to rescue objects from the burned homes, but very little could survive the inferno,” he lamented. Daniel was present when some of the families returned to the charred remains of their homes. “It was heartbreaking.” Miraculously, he stresses, no lives were lost in Israel’s most destructive fire in history.

As Daniel fought the recent blaze shoulder to shoulder with several hundred professional firefighters, he used extreme caution. “I’ve been trained well, and ‘my’ firemen, who are like my family, carefully protected me.”

As for the future, Daniel’s heart is now set on enlisting in the Air Force Aerial Firefighters. Afterwards, “I hope you’ll see me return to the fire station as a career officer, although I pray that fires will someday be totally prevented.”

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