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US Firefighters Answer Israel's Call for Help

11-29-2016
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Emergency Volunteer Project Firefighters, Courtesy EVP

JERUSALEM, Israel – The fires that ravaged Israel over the past week and a half were some of the worst in the nation's history. With Israeli firefighters struggling to bring the flames under control, volunteer firemen from the U.S. came without hesitation to help during the crisis.

The four major fires that swept throughout Israel were dangerous and difficult.

"They were bad. They were bad," Fire Chief Rick Nessner from Combine, Texas, told CBN News. "I've been on some wild land forest fires back in the States, and they were just as bad as those. You see some of the California fires and such. They got pretty bad here as well."

Billy Hirst, U.S. director of Emergency Volunteer Project (EVP) told CBN News, "When you stand in front of it, it will burn right over you. If you get behind it, you can't catch up to it."   

With Israeli firefighters stretched to their limit, the call for help went out on Thanksgiving Day to the U.S. firemen.

"Amazing how all the American people stood behind Israel when we made the call – from the firefighters to the supporters to the people that said, 'How can we help?'" EVP founder and CEO Adi Zahavi told CBN News.  

"Probably within six hours, we had 39 people ready to go," Hirst said.  

When the firemen arrived, they deployed throughout the country.

"Kind of hit the ground running as soon as we got here. We started going out on calls right away," Jacob Windell, with the L.A. County Fire Department, recalled.  "We were able to help out with some wild land fires, with some structural, apartment fires, as well as going on routine calls."  

"We were stationed all the way from Ashdod to Haifa," Hirst said.

They came as part of program called EVP, Emergency Volunteer Project.

"They goal of the project is to find the supporters of Israel that want to have their boots on the ground in Israel during crisis," Zahavi said.

Some came during big moments in their lives.

"Just before I came, I proposed to my girlfriend so she is now my fiancé, Kathleen Humphries, and we've been doing wedding planning over the phone," Benjamin Arnold with the L.A. County Fire Department told us.  

For Israeli firefighters – and for the nation as a whole – it meant a lot to see so many come to help.

"It always makes good feeling for us to know that someone overseas care about us and think about us and (is) prepared to come and help us no matter what it takes," said Arik Abouloff with EVP Israel.  

EVP volunteers also responded during the 2014 war with Hamas. It's a call firefighters answer when their brothers need help.

"The best way to describe [it] is like a brotherhood," L.A. County fireman Benjamin Arnold said. "Just like your family at home, this is my family at work. We keep in touch even when we're not in Israel."  

Many of the U.S. firefighters are Christians and feel a call to stand with Israel.

"From the very beginning, I believe that God commands us to stand by them, that we're to be an advocate for Israel – love them," Hirst said. "My first trip here I was given a word, a prophetic word, [from] Isaiah 40: "Comfort My people." So it means everything to be part of their lives."  

"God calls us to help people in need and be there for our fellow brothers and family," Arnold said.

It's a relationship that's expected to keep growing.

"This is not going to stop. We love being here. They love having us here," Hirst said. "Actually (we're) working on an idea to bring some of them over to the U.S."  

"It's truly an honor for me to come and be here with the guys here in the fire station, be with the firefighters and serve Israel," Arnold added.

"When we called our friends, and we asked for their help, they came and they came big time," Zahavi said. 

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