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The great matzah fire of 2016

Fire breaks out in Jerusalem in an illegal matzah factory.JERUSALEM — Passover preparations in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She’arim turned disastrous as two men in their 70s were moderately injured and a building was burned down. The fire was a direct result of matzah baking gone wrong, involving an improvised blowtorch and “gas piracy,” fire inspectors concluded on Wednesday, April 6.

The matzah bakers “operated a blowtorch which they illegally and negligently connected to one of the building’s gas tanks,” said a spokesperson for the Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Service (JFRS).

According to the JFRS, five firefighter teams were called in Tuesday after an explosion occurred in a rooftop apartment in Mea She’arim shortly before 2 p.m. local time.

“We arrived in the early afternoon to discover the roof of a large apartment complex completely in flames,” said Eyal Cohen, deputy head of the JFRS, who commanded the firefighting efforts that day.

“The fire was quickly skipping from apartment to apartment along the roof. Parts of the building were already collapsing and there were burning gas tanks in the complex. We feared the fire might spread to adjacent buildings,” Cohen described.

The fire was successfully extinguished after intense efforts that lasted two hours and included over 50 firefighters and volunteers, 18 fire trucks and two fire service cranes.

Seven apartments completely burned down and the rest of the complex sustained irreparable damage. Luckily, no further victims were reported save for the two men who were injured as a result of the initial explosion.

The suspects allegedly used an improvised blowtorch in order to kasher the dishes and tools used for the matzah baking for Passover,  a process that involves treating tools with an open flame.

“As a result of the attempt to pirate gas and the dangerous improvisation the gas started leaking from the tank into the apartment until it ignited and caused the explosion,” the spokesperson explained.

He said that every year before Passover there are cases of damage and injury related to illegal matzah bakeries.


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