Illegal Matzo Baking Causes Massive Fire in Mea Shearim

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Mea She’arim Matzo Fire Incident The scene of the Mea She'arim fire on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Courtesy of the Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Services.

Illegal Matzo Baking Causes Massive Fire in Mea Shearim

Written by Michael Zeff/TPS on April 06, 2016

Jerusalem (TPS) – Passover preparations in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She’arim turned disastrous as two septuagenarian men were moderately injured and a building was burned down. The fire was a direct result of Matzo baking gone wrong, involving an improvised blowtorch and “gas piracy,” fire inspectors concluded on Wednesday, April 6.

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

According to the JFRS, five firefighter teams were called in on Tuesday after an explosion occurred in a rooftop apartment of a Mea Shearim shortly before 2 p.m.

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“We arrived in the early afternoon to discover the roof of a large apartment complex completely in flames,” stated 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 only two hours and included over 50 firefighters and volunteers, 18 fire trucks and two fire service cranes. Seven apartments completely burned down as a result 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.

On Wednesday, the JFRS fire investigators announced that the explosion and subsequent raging fire were the result of an ill-advised attempt to mass produce Matzo for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover by improvising a blowtorch to “pirated” gas.

The suspects allegedly used this improvised blowtorch in order to make the dishes and tools for the Matzo making process kosher for passover. According to Jewish religious customs, part of the process of making tools and dishes kosher for passover involves treating them 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.

The spokesperson also noted that every year before Passover there are cases of damage and injury related to illegal and unapproved matzo bakeries.

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